Broken Bones and Torn Ligaments

I took my daughter to physical therapy today – she’s recovering from ankle surgery.  As I sat in the waiting room, it was interesting to watch all the people checking in with a wide variety of injuries.  Many of the patients were wearing special cast boots or hi-tech splints on their legs.  Some were wearing slings for their arms or shoulders.  There were crutches, knee scooters, wheelchairs and lots of limping and slow, careful walking.

It reminded me of when I fractured my wrist playing baseball.  I slid into home base and collided with the catcher.  I ended up with a fractured wrist but at least I was safe and had scored a run.  Even though it was just my wrist, I had a cast that extended halfway up my bicep.  I don’t think they use those old plaster casts much anymore.  I hated that cast, especially when my arm would start to itch.  I would use a straitened wire coat hanger to reach down inside my cast to get relief from those annoying itches.

I remember what it was like when the cast was finally cut off. The muscles in my arm had atrophied and my arm seemed much smaller that my other arm.  My arm was very weak and moving it was painful and awkward.  In addition, I had to be careful what I lifted.  I remember how frustrating it was not to have full functionality of my arm.  It took several more weeks before my arm started to feel somewhat normal again and a couple of months before my strength returned.  Physical therapy back then didn’t seem to be offered – at least it was never suggested to me.

As I watched these patients enter and leave the physical therapy gym, I thought about the wonderful benefits of such therapy.  This process truly helps people recover from their injuries far more quickly and eliminates much of the pain and discomfort of recovery by appropriately exercising the effected muscles and joints.

I thought about how a similar “therapy” for emergency preparedness would be so very helpful.  Far too many go through the process of purchasing and storing their food storage and emergency preps and then just forget about them – kind of like putting on a preparedness plaster cast.  As a result, nothing is ever done to exercise those preparedness muscles and when the time comes to use those stored preps, those muscles will have atrophied and will not function as anticipated.

Prior to an emergency, physical therapy would apply by our actually using and becoming familiar with the functionality of our preps.  Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Make a meal with your food storage. Prepare for your family several entrees of your food storage to see what your family thinks.  Become familiar with how to prepare the food and how the serving sizes work with your family’s needs.  If you’ve stored whole grains like wheat, try grinding and cooking with it.  Do you have the ability to actually bake bread or will it be too harsh on your family’s digestive tracts?

Experiment with the equipment in your bug-out-bags. Go for a hike with your backpacks to see how they fit and how to best adjust the straps.  Cook a meal with the small portable stove.  How long does it take to boil water?  Take the radio/flashlight camping to see how it works in the woods.  Inventory the items in the first aid kit and check any expiration dates.

Use your water storage. Rotate your water storage and try using it rather than your tap water for a day.  Experiment with how to flush your toilets by pouring water in the bowl.  Use your water filters.  Go to a lake, stream or irrigation ditch and go through the process of filtering at least a gallon of water and then be brave and drink it.

Cook a meal with your camp stove or try and cook a meal over an open fire. I promise you, there will be much learned through this exercise.  Cooking without the convenience of a stove and microwave requires so much more time, especially if you’re cooking with charcoal briquettes.  Practice how to use just the right amount of briquettes to thoroughly cook your food in your dutch oven and not burn it – or worse, burn the outside with the center still raw.

Practice off-grid scenarios. Pretend the power is off in your home and go an evening with nothing but your flashlights and lanterns.  Will they give off the light you need?  How long will the batteries or charge last? How long does it take for your solar flashlights and lanterns to recharge the next day?

Go camping. Even if you’re not a camping family, you should have sleeping bags and a tent in your preps. Try spending the night outside in the backyard in your tent and experience your first sleepless night in your sleeping bags.  Are they warm enough?  Do you have comfortable ground sleeping pads?  If you had to sleep outside for a few days or longer due to a natural disaster, would your preps be sufficient to protect your family from the elements?

There are many other things you can do to practice and exercise your prep muscles.  Now is the time to take advantage of your self-imposed physical therapy so when the time comes for you to use your preps in a real emergency, you will have the strength, experience and knowledge to make a very difficult situation far less traumatic.

Don’t Singe Your Eyebrows!

Most kids have a real fascination with fire.​  There is something magical and alluring about an open flame.  As parents, we’re constantly warning our children not to play with matches stressing the consequences if they disobey.  Nevertheless, it’s an important part of their education to understand the proper use of and correct way to build and lite a fire.

Growing up as a boy scout, learning how to properly prepare and lite a campfire was an important rite of passage.  Understanding how to find and create the proper amount of tinder was crucial.  Then building the structure – a teepee, a log cabin, a pyramid or a lean-to was always a thing of pride.

In our scout troop, one had to qualify to be a good fire starter – it wasn’t something everyone could do well.  It took practice and experience as well as the knowledge that each of the three key components of starting and maintaining a fire cannot be neglected.  These three factors are:

1.  Ignition source
2.  Fuel
3.  Oxygen

Most failures in building a fire come from not properly securing and preparing the right kind of fuel.  Whether it be the lack of flammable tinder or using too large of pieces of wood or trying to ignite damp or wet wood – many boxes of matches have been wasted trying to ignite a poorly built fire.

As a scout leader, one of my goals was to make sure every scout knew how to properly build a fire that could be ignited with just one match. We would have an annual competition to prove each scout could start a fire under adverse weather conditions in simulated survival conditions.  Each scout was given 30 minutes to prepare his tinder by creating feather sticks.

Then the simulated adverse survival conditions – we would hold this competition during the winter, usually in December.  The temperatures were always below freezing and there was almost always snow on the ground.  The boys were required to strip down to just gym shorts and shoes – no shirts, jackets or hats.  They were given just one match and were expected to start their fire and use the heat to keep from freezing.  Just a side note, we did this in our backyard so we were always close to a warm house if needed.

On the count of three, the boys all ran outside, set up their fires and lit them with their sole match.  As soon as their fires got going, each would stand over the flame to benefit from the warmth of their small fires.  As leaders, we would always join the scouts in this competition.  Each year, every scout was successful because we had spent the time to teach the essentials and helped them understand the necessity of taking the time to properly prepare their tinder and build their fire correctly.

One must be patient.  The lack of patience in preparing your tinder and properly building your fire will in most cases result in no fire at all.

In the event you have a limited supply of dry fuel to keep you fire going, you can increase the temperature of your fire by adding more oxygen similarly to how blacksmiths do – by using a bellows.

I learned how beneficial extra oxygen can be in burning moist, difficult to burn wood.  I had a large tree in our yard that was blown over in a terrible wind storm.  I cut most of it up to use as firewood.  When it came to the stump and roots, I figured I’d just need to haul it off to the dump because there was so much dirt compacted within the intertwined roots, I knew it would never burn.

I decided to try an experiment; I was able to start part of the stump on fire and I brought a portable fan outside and placed it close to the burning stump.  When I powered up the fan, the flame immediately increased and I was very curious to see how far the stump would burn.  After a few hours, there was no longer a flame but just bright orange coals glowing as the fan blew on them.

I left the fan going all night and when I went out in my yard in the morning, I couldn’t believe what I saw.  All there was in front of the fan was a pile of dirt, the dirt that had been compacted around the roots.  Every bit of wood from the stump and all the roots had been completely burned – all due to the increase in oxygen.

When working with a campfire that is not burning well, the very inefficient and sometimes painful way we have all tried to add more oxygen is by blowing on the coals at the base of the fire.  For me, this has never been a pleasurable experience.  First, it’s hard to get close enough without getting burned and second, I would always get smoke and ashes in my eyes.

Then I discovered the solution; I learned how to make a portable bellows that solves the problems of smoke and ash in your face plus being much more efficient is getting the additional oxygen right where it’s needed.

You can easily make one these portable bellows for just a buck and it will collapse and easily fit in your pocket.  You’ll need to make a trip to your local dollar store and purchase a “Selfie Stick”.  Then with a hacksaw, cut off the very end that has the attachment to hold your phone.  Then peel back the rubber grip on the end of the handle and cut off the very end of the handle as well.  Voila – you now have a portable bellows.  Check out this video to learn how to make several different sizes:

This will be a fun project for the whole family.  Everyone should have their own portable bellows and become an expert in building and maintaining a fire.  Now is the time to learn and practice – not when you’re in an emergency situation.

Really? That’s Your Plan?

When I was just 15 years old, a relative who lived in another state offered me an exciting opportunity – he said I could stay with them and work at his gas station over the summer.  I was super excited about it and my parents gave the nod so as soon as school was out for our summer break, I was on a plane headed for adventures unknown.

For my first couple of weeks, I shadowed my relative throughout the day trying to learn as much as I could about how to be a gas station attendant.  Keep in mind; this was in the day before self-service gas stations.  We wore a uniform and when a car would pull up, a bell would clang and we would quickly head out to the pump and ask the driver how we could help.  We’d usually hear, “fill er up” so we’d then go to work not only filling the gas tank, but checking the oil, washing the windshield and even checking tire pressure.

In addition to pumping gas, we did oil changes, tire repair, basic engine tune ups (replaced spark plugs), replaced fan belts, alternators and water pumps.  Even if I was in the middle of any of these repairs and the bell clanged, I’d have to drop everything to run out and pump gas.

It was busy work but the money made it all worth it – I was raking in $1.60 an hour (minimum wage back then) and loving every minute of it!  Then the shift work began.  My relative’s station was on the edge of town near the freeway and he kept the station open 24/7.  As a result, there were three shifts each day.  8 AM to 4 PM, 4 PM to midnight (swing) and midnight to 8 AM (graveyard).

Being the new kid on the block with zero seniority, guess who got more than his fair share of graves?  Yep, you guessed it and it was kinda fun for the first time or two then it got a little weird and scary.  I had scary looking guys steal gas and others who took advantage of a young teenager and made me wonder if I’d live through the night.  I would be so relieved when the sun would start coming up over the mountains cause we all know, scary bad guys hate the light.

Since I knew I would be totally on my own during those early morning hours, I decided to make a plan to defend myself in the event any of those scary guys tried to rob or hurt me.  I found an old metal vacuum cleaner attachment in the back room that I decided to make into a machete. It was about 20″ long and almost flat about half of that length.

I proceeded to make it totally flat except for the handle be smashing it in the workbench vice.  I then used a metal file to sharpen one edge of it to where I was pretty impressed with my creation.  Problem was, I couldn’t carry it with me all the time so I had to leave it on the workbench where it really wouldn’t have done me any good.  Of course, in retrospect, it was ridiculous to consider my actually using my homemade machete to defend myself.  Nevertheless, it provided a certain sense of security regardless of how ridiculous the actual application would have been.

Over the last 30 plus years, I have seen far too many examples of this same false sense of security when it comes to providing emergency food storage for one’s family.  There are four basic categories these examples fall into that I’d like to address.

First – The bulk grain solution to food storage.  Yes, wheat is indeed the staff of life and if it came right down to it, wheat would keep you from starving to death.  Unfortunately, there are those who believe if they simply store several hundred pounds of wheat, somehow magically all their future needs for food for their families will be taken care of.

What’s even harder to understand is that most of these folks make absolutely no attempt to become familiar with or experienced at how to actually use their wheat.  They have no practical way to grind the wheat, no additional ingredients to make or bake bread, yeast isn’t even a thought but regardless, this wheat provides them with this sense of security that if things really went south, they would survive – just like my home-made machete.

Second – The macho approach to food storage.  I’ve run into far too many of these guys as well.  These are the guys (predominantly men), who know it all and don’t need anyone else telling them how to provide for their families in times of need.  They consider themselves the rough and tumble type that assume just because they like the outdoors and have bagged a deer or two in their life, they are qualified as professional survivalists and will be able to do whatever it takes to feed their families.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard these macho guys claim that if their family needed food, they’d just go up into the hills and shoot a deer and all would be well.  Even if it really was that easy, I’m sure no one else would have that same idea, right?  I’m sure there would be no other hunters in the woods trying to provide for their families, some of which who might be desperate enough that if they saw someone else with a deer, they might do whatever it took to take it for themselves.  There’s no question, it would be an outright war in the hills for any available game.  But for these tough guys, this plan is their home-made machete.

Third – The moochers.  This is the group that is convinced others will provide for their needs.  The couple who’s food storage plan is to go home to mom and dad in time of need rather than implementing their own game plan and preparing.  There are those who feel secure relying on the possible assistance from their church.  They may have received assistance in the past and assume that if things get really bad, the church will always have sufficient for their family, not considering the church’s resources may be stretched to the limit with an increased demand from many other families.

Then there are those whose intent is to rely on their friends and neighbors.  I remember a Twlight Zone episode where a family was well prepared with food storage and a bomb shelter and how their neighbors tried to break in when there was an atomic bomb scare. Close friends and acquaintances became ugly marauders who, with no regard for their once friends, were doing everything in their power, including stealing from their friends to keep from going without.  I really don’t understand how this group can feel secure with this type of game plan, but they obviously do.

Fourth – Mobocracy.  This is the darkest and ugliest game plan of all.  This plan relies on violence, theft and control by fear to provide for their needs.  Taking one’s belongings and life if necessary are part of the anticipated method of operation of these thugs.  These groups or gangs find strength in numbers and are devoid of any conscience or concern for others.  They truly understand the most valuable commodity is food and will do whatever it takes to accumulate that wealth for both survival and power.  The arrogance and cavalier attitude of this group far exceeds the macho group and they should be considered armed and very dangerous and to be avoided at all costs.  Let’s hope and pray we are never in a situation where we are forced to confront such a gang.

There is nothing sweeter than the peace of mind and sense of security that comes from “knowing” you are truly prepared for most any difficult scenario.  The knowledge your family will be taken care of and not have to go without is indeed priceless.  On the other hand, having a sense of security that is based on false assumptions can be dangerous or even devastating when the time comes all this becomes real.

Cut Off My Feet!

As a kid, one thing I really hated was being cold.  I remember getting wet and chilled to the bone tubbing as a kid.  My hands were so cold, I wanted to cry.  When I got home, I thought running hot water over them would take away the pain – boy, was I wrong!  I couldn’t believe how much it hurt! I learned not to use that tactic to warm my freezing hands in the future but I still hated being wet and cold.  Tubbing was so much fun, but there was always a price to pay.  In addition to tubbing, often hunting was also a time of painful cold.

When I’d go deer hunting with my dad, we’d get up early on opening morning, leave the warmth of our sleeping bags, put on our coats and orange vests and hats and hike out to the edge of a clearing and sit and wait for the sun to come up.  Since it was typically late in October, it was always cold before sunrise in the mountains.  As a young kid, it was hard to sit still for what seemed like forever but it almost always paid off, we’d see several deer as they were looking for a place to bed down for the day.

Problem was, after the warmth of hiking wore off, just sitting there in the dark, I would start to shiver.  My rear would get cold sitting on the ground and my feet would start to get cold.  I hated it when my feet and toes would get cold because it was always difficult to warm them up.  Unless you took your boots off, even sitting close to a fire didn’t seem to warm them up.

I remember being warned as a kid not to rest your feet too close to a fire because once you actually felt the heat of the fire through your boots, they were too close, too hot and you could both burn your boots as well as your feet.  I had a friend who was wearing rubber winter boots, his feet got cold and he tried to warm them by the fire.  He got too close and his boots melted and badly burned his feet before he could get them off.  He was in so much pain he wanted to cut off his feet.

Over the years, I have purchased very warm boots (I personally like the Sorel brand) but they can be heavy and clunky if you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking.  Unfortunately, the lighter weight hiking boots just never provide the warmth once you stop moving around.  Then I discovered the solution!  You’re probably familiar with space blankets – thin mylar blankets that help keep you warm by reflecting your body heat – great in an emergency.  Well, this solution works on the same principle, reflecting the heat from your feet.  The mylar blankets are far too thin and would bunch up if you tried to line your boots with one.  Luckily, there’s another solution – car windshield sun shades.

You can pick these up at your local dollar store for just a buck.  I picked up ten of them to keep with my preps for future needs.  Just remove the insoles from your boots and use them as a pattern.  Trace around them with a Sharpie marker, and cut them out.  Slide the perfectly cut sun shade inside your boot, shiny side up. Now replace your insoles.  You can also try placing the cut out sun shade on top of your insole. You will be amazed how warm they will keep your feet.  Even though the material is thin, it’s rigid enough that they won’t bunch up when you walk.

Here’s a quick video with directions on how to make these great foot warmers.

Put these sun shades on your shopping list and pick up several.  You can fit all your family’s winter boots needs and have extras for when the kid’s boot size change.​

Death Was So Close

A number of years ago, on an elk hunting trip, my father in law, brother in law and myself came extremely close to dying as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.  It was a very scary experience to look back and realize just how close we came to perishing as a result of our carelessness.

The three of us had purchased a cabin for our families in a remote, high altitude mountain area.  The elevation of our cabin was about 9,600 feet above sea level.  It was high enough that it took several days to acclimate to the altitude and would often cause headaches if you exerted yourself too much.

Since our cabin was located in such a remote, wooded area, there were no utilities available.  We were totally off the grid.  We used a generator for power and propane for cooking and heat.  We also used the fireplace on occasion for heat and light both.  Due to the altitude of the cabin, it was common to have four to six feet of snow on the ground most of the winter.  As a result, our access to the cabin was usually limited to between the months of May and November.

I come from a family of hunters and it was a regular event to use the cabin as a base camp for both deer and elk hunting.  It was common for us to either bring our four wheelers or horses on our hunts as it made carrying our game back to the cabin so much easier.  It was in late September we had planned on elk hunting near the cabin and had trailered our horses up to the cabin to make the hunt easier.

It was an Indian Fall with temperatures in the upper 50’s and low 60’s.  It was beautiful weather for a hunt with the leaves just starting to turn on the quakies.  We were having the time of our life, riding all over the mountainous area near our cabin, enjoying the scenery and weather almost as much as the anticipation of bagging a big bull elk.  We glassed a herd of about 20 elk more than 1,000 yards away but were never able to get close enough for any kind of a decent shot.

The next day out, clouds began to roll in and by mid-day, it began to rain.  We donned our slickers but not before we got wet.  We continued to ride the rest of that soggy day with no luck finding a decent bull.  By the time we got back to the cabin that evening and got the horses put away, we were wet, cold and hungry and anxious to get inside, warm up and get some food on our stomachs.

Ever since my father in law suffered hypothermia on a backpacking trip, he had become hyper sensitive to the cold.  I even have a picture of him sitting on the beach in Coronado, CA wearing his cowboy hat and a jacket with the beach towel wrapped around his legs.  He hated to cold!  Anyway, as soon as we entered the cabin, he asked me to fire up the propane heater even though it wasn’t that cold inside.  So, being an obedient son in law, without a second thought, I lit the heater and turned up the thermostat.

I then went outside and fired up the generator as it was getting dark.  After a quick bite of food, we decided to setting down and watch a video.  We had an old color TV set up on a shelf by the fireplace and used an old full size VHS camcorder (the big ones that would rest on your shoulder when you shot videos) as a video player to watch the limited library of video tapes we kept at the cabin.  That night, the video of choice was “Tremors” with Kevin Bacon.  If you’ve never had the privilege of watching that masterpiece, it’s about these huge underground worms that are eating people and destroying the town.

One of the unique characteristics of our fancy entertainment center was that the TV would occasionally change from color to black and white.  The high-tech method we used to rectify this annoying shift was to smack the TV hard on the side.  This procedure usually solved the problem.

I glanced over at my father in law who was sitting in an over-stuffed chair next to me and he was out – fast asleep which seemed quite appealing to me after a long day of hunting, a full belly, warm cabin and a classic movie.  As a result, I was quickly dozing off to la la land myself.  My brother in law was laying on a couch closest to the TV and was also feeling sleepy when in a critical part of the movie (the giant worm was eating yet another victim), the TV went black and white.  My brother in law, who had become an expert in adjusting the TV and bringing it back to “technicolor”, sat up to smack the TV once again.

As soon as he sat up, he grabbed his head and yelled out to us – “Wake up, were being poisoned!”  It took several seconds to come to but as we tried to stand up, our heads felt like they were going to explode.  We could feel our hearts pounding like we had just run a mile and we felt like we were going to throw up.  We managed to make our way out to the front porch where we quickly sat down with our heads between our legs and tried to keep from passing out from the headache pain we were experiencing.  As soon as I could stand again, I went back inside, turned off the heater and opened the windows and doors to try and air out the cabin.

How could this happen?!  We had never experienced any problem like this before.  The propane heaters always seemed to function properly in the past and we never worried about carbon monoxide poisoning.  Then it came to me – the reason we almost died – we had neglected to take the metal bucket off the furnace flu.  In an attempt to keep squirrels and other critters out of the cabin, when we leave the cabin, we climb up on the roof and put a bucket over the top of the flu.  Because we hadn’t used the furnace the night before, we simple hadn’t thought about the issue of a blocked flu.

As a result, over a period of about an hour, we had been slowing breathing in the odorless carbon monoxide, making us sleepy and gradually and painlessly killing us.  It really is scary to think how close we came to dying that night and I’m convinced that wonderful old color TV went black and white purposely, by a higher power, to save our lives.  Had that not happened – had my brother in law not needed to sit up to smack the TV, our families would have discovered three bloated bodies several days later.  We were that close!

The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are prolonged – in fact it took about three days for us to feel back to normal.  You see, the hemoglobin in our red blood cells became saturated with carbon monoxide which blocked oxygen from being absorbed and transported throughout our bodies.  So, for three days, our bodies were trying to replace the carbon monoxide with oxygen that would provide energy and stamina.  We were so oxygen deprived; our bodies were struggling to do the simplest of tasks.  Granted, we were at a very high altitude (which didn’t help) but even walking just 20 feet would cause us to be winded and needing to rest.  Nevertheless, like the tough guys we thought we were, we weren’t about to bail on our hunting excursion.

Luckily we had our horses to do most of the work.  Every now and then when we’d be in a really densely wooded area and we’d have to get off our horses and walk them over all the fallen timber and brush, it would about kill us.  It was like trying to run a race breathing through a straw.  I hope never to have to experience that silent killer again (I may not be as lucky the second time).

Unfortunately, I’m afraid many families will be subjected to the potentially fatal consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning in a grid down scenario.  Many who have stored away emergency camp stoves or other alternate forms of cooking, light and heat, due to the stress of the situation, will fail to follow proper safety precautions when using such emergency systems indoors.  Here’s the best safety tip I can provide – regardless of how safe your cooking or heating source may claim to be, NEVER use it in an enclosed area.  I know, I know, there are many heaters that are ventless or fluless and claim to be safe to use indoors – nevertheless, ALWAYS keep a significant fresh air flow when using such a device.

Some may say, “Why would I open a window and let cold air in when I’m trying to heat the room?”  Yes, it is a little counter-intuitive but essential for survival.  Please take my word for it, it’s absolutely not worth it!  Life is far too precious to risk the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

18 Strange Meals People Ate During the Great Depression

I came across this article recently and couldn’t help but think about the difficult conditions the Great Depression caused for many households throughout the nation.  Families had to be very creative in what they ate and wore.  Many families went without basic essentials and many suffered.  Luckily, for each of us right now, we have the option to greatly mitigate any potential future hardships.  Acquiring the appropriate level of food storage now will help alleviate the stress of providing for our families in times of need.

The great depression brought out both the resiliency and ingenuity of literally millions of people. With few options, people had to make do with what was on hand. Clothes were sewn with spare flour sacks and shoes repaired with cardboard.

Food, however, is where things got really interesting. Some foods were still plentiful and reasonably affordable, but others were scarce. How do you make a full meal when half your ingredients are missing?

You improvise and invent a whole host of crazy foods in the process. Here are some strange meals people ate during the Great Depression–meals we might all be eating again someday.

1.  Corned Beef Salad – So corned beef salad doesn’t sound that bad…until you learn that it’s made with mayonnaise and Jello. Well, gelatin anyway. It’s a mixture of corned beef, eggs, mayonnaise, horseradish, and some vegetables, all held together in a loaf with plain gelatin. Yum…beef jello.

2.  Dandelion Salad – These days, the foodie movement has just about everyone open to eating foods foraged from your yard, but back then dandelion salad was just weird. They did it because it was a way to get free food onto the table, and a bit of added vitamins in an otherwise bland depression diet.

3.  Egg Drop Soup – Not anything like the egg drop soup you can order in modern Chinese restaurants, this soup started with fried potatoes and then added water. The mixture was brought to a boil, and then scrambled eggs were stirred in while the water was boiling. The whole thing was served over toast. I’m not sure why they didn’t just have eggs, potatoes, and toast, but perhaps the spirit of creativity took hold.

4.  Frozen Fruit Salad  – This particular dish was considered the ultimate treat for the holidays. There are many variations of this salad, but all have the same basic feel. Start with canned fruit and add whipped cream, eggs, flour, and any manner of other things (marshmallows, nuts, or whatever is available). Freeze the whole thing in trays and then serve.

5.  Hoover Stew – Named after the president that took office right before the crash, Hoover Stew was the name for the cheap slop eaten by residents of shanty towns Recipes varied, but usually involved hot dogs, canned vegetables, and pasta or macaroni.

6.  Ketchup, Mayonnaise or Onion Sandwiches – What do you do when you want a sandwich, but don’t have any meat or cheese to put in it? Put some ketchup between slices of bread and call it good. Mayonnaise sandwiches were also common, and honestly sound a lot better than the last option, plain onion sandwiches.

7.  Kraft Mac and Cheese – Actually invented during the Great Depression, Kraft mac and cheese was advertised as an exercise in frugality. These days it’s commonplace, and it’s still a cheap way to put calories on the table, but back then a shelf-stable box with powdered cheese replaced a traditional homemade meal full of expensive ingredients like cheese and cream.

8.  Loaves – These days, meatloaf is a simple and relatively cheap weeknight dinner. But how do you make it without ground beef? That’s how it became just “loaf” and it was made out of just about anything put into a loaf pan. Cheap foods like liver, peanuts, and raisins found their way into this catch-all food.

9.  Milkorno – Invented by scientists at Cornell University in 1933 when they were looking for inexpensive ways to feed the masses, it’s a gruel made from dried powdered milk and cornmeal. Other variations like milkwheato (using wheat instead of corn) were also invented and were just as appetizing.

10.  Mock Apple Pie – How do you make an apple pie without apples? It turns out there are a number of ways. One popular recipe involved stuffing a pie crust with Ritz and then covering them with cinnamon, butter, and sugar syrup. Other recipes substitute fruits or vegetables, like a mock apple pie made with zucchini.

11.  Poor Man’s Meal – A mixture of hot dogs and potatoes, poor man’s meal was actually quite tasty. Potatoes were fried with onions until browned, and then chopped hot dogs were added. My grandmother made this for me as a child, and my mother had her own version, substituting kielbasa for the hot dogs, which made it much tastier.

12.  Peanut Butter Stuffed Onions – Actually recommended by home economics teachers, peanut butter stuffed baked onions found its way onto tables. Can you imagine eating an onion stuffed with peanut butter?

13.  Potato Pancakes – Potatoes were one of the most widely available foods, and they found their way into many dishes. Simple potato pancakes are some of the more appetizing ways they were eaten. They were made either by frying mashed potatoes or by binding grated potatoes together with flour and eggs.

14.  Prune Pudding – Actually served at the White House as an act of solidarity with “the people who are suffering” in the streets, prune pudding is a simple mix of boiled prunes, sugar, and cornstarch. Sometimes seasoned, sometimes not, prune pudding had to fill in for dessert. It was generally served in small dishes, to prevent disastrous prune related consequences.

15.  Red Velvet Cake – These days you can find red velvet cake recipes on fancy food blogs, but back then it was a cheap way to make an “almost” chocolate cake. Substituting vegetable oil for real butter, and using almost no cocoa, what the cake lacked in flavor it made up for in color.

16.   **** on a Shingle – This is also known as creamed chipped beef, but **** on a shingle about sums up the thoughts of those that had to eat it. In a nutshell, it’s dried beef that’s re-hydrated a bit in a sauce made with flour and butter, and then served on toast.

17.  Spaghetti with Carrots and White Sauce – Eleanor Roosevelt herself recommended this dish for the frugal cook. It involved a casserole made out of intentionally overcooked mushy spaghetti and boiled carrots, covered in a pasty white sauce made from flour and butter.

18.  Vinegar Pie – Though mock apple pie was one option, other pie recipes tried to get a “fruit pie” feel by substituting the tartness of fruit with vinegar. The dessert was made with a pie crust filled with butter, flour, sugar, and vinegar. Sounds horrible to me, but I guess it cant be that weird, even Martha Stewart has a recipe.


The Government’s Role In Your Safety

CBS New’s headline today warned of more Ohio River flooding after extreme weather had already taken human lives in the Midwest. Areas in Houston, still recovering from flooding 6 months ago, are now watching their rivers as poorly developed neighborhoods recognize their increased risk of future floods. Vulnerable people are looking for aid wherever they can find it.

Government Aid
In a world where states are requesting money to accommodate their water needs, what are your personal responsibilities for your personal property and well-being? Are you willing to wait for government money and help to cover your needs? Of course not.  If we’ve learned anything in the past decade, we’ve learned that we can not and should not use the government as a safety net when it comes to covering our needs, especially our water/safety needs.

Avoiding Flooding
Federal money is going to cities with poorly planned housing in flood zones. The question is, where is the responsibility of the citizens? When making possibly the biggest financial decisions of their lives, did anyone look at maps? Did anyone consider proximities to rivers, canals, etc.?  What about positioning inside neighborhoods?  The higher you are, the less likely you’ll have to deal with devastating flooding.  While states may ask and beg for federal dollars, chances of individuals seeing any financial relief from damage to a poorly placed home are slim.

Take Control
So what does that mean? It means, you do what you need to do to be prepared. If you’re able to move to higher ground, of course, do so. If you’re not able to move, what are your options?  Are you doomed because your mortgage has tied you to a house that may betray you? Not necessarily. There are things you can do. While you are high and dry, it is time to prepare. It’s time to stock up on sandbags.  It’s time to build up landscaping to minimize flooding. Research diverting water, landscaping, and other options for flooding prevention.    In other words, it’s time to assume you’ll receive nothing from the government and take control of the situation you are in.

Part of taking control is understanding your vulnerability. Store your food and water. Store physically high and low, spread out your resources so you can use them in different types of emergencies.  But have enough resources for you and your family to ride out any storm that comes your way.  If you have to ride out a flood, make sure you have enough clean water and food to do so. Even better, get away before you become stranded. Grab your Bug-Out Bag and go. Go before traffic stalls and before you can’t get out of the city.

The takeaway?  Your preparation is your responsibility. It’s not the government’s responsibility. It’s not your community leaders’ responsibility.  If you’re reading this, you probably already understand this concept.

How Much Do You Need in Your Savings Account?

So you have a savings account, now what? How much money do you need to put in there? Financial experts talk about having an emergency fund, but what does that really mean?

An emergency fund is not your savings for a car, house, or other large purchases. Savings for a downpayment on a home should be in addition to your emergency fund. The emergency fund is there for a rainy day (car breaking down, expected medical expenses, etc.) and not for a weekend trip to Las Vegas.

During a disaster or a job loss, your emergency fund will allow you to keep living your life and more importantly paying your bills. So how much do you really need? The bare minimum should be six months of expenses. In other words, what does it take to keep a roof over your head for six months? Say your mortgage is $1,500 a month, plus $300 for utilities, $400 for groceries, $100 for the phone, $89 for life insurance, $400 for health insurance. You’ll need $16,734 in your emergency fund to live off of for six months. This does not include going out to dinner or to the movies or on that family cruise to Mexico.

Though in reality, most people don’t cut their expenses back when faces with finical disaster.  Err on the side of caution and save more than you think you’ll need. It is better to be safe than sorry. What are your household expenses? Not just the mortgage and groceries. How much do you eat out? How many movies do you see a month? A weekly date night of dinner and a movie would be around $50, that is $200 a month.

Take an honest look at your spending. It is easy to say I’ll cut out this or that, but it is harder than you think. How much are your really spending each month, add that up and times it by six to eight months. $2,789 for the mortgage, etc., plus $200 for weekly dates, $100 for ballet lessons, $100 for soccer practice. $25,512 will allow you to live with your current lifestyle for eight months. This is how much money you really need in your emergency fund.

On average it takes one to two years to find a new job after a job loss. The bare minimum of six months of essentials won’t last long. Plan to save eight months of your real expenses you will be much better prepared. Then if you cut back to the essentials your emergency fund will last much longer.

Are you spending more than you are making? If you have massive amounts of debt your emergency fund will quickly be eaten up. Look at your real expenses and compare them to your monthly income. Does it add up? Ideally, you should have some money left over to put into an emergency fund, if not it’s time to cut back. Saving six to eight months of income should allow you to meet your needs and have some left over. This will cushion your funds and make them last longer if necessary.

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Bartering 101

Before the advent of paper money bartering or trading was the way people got what they needed. Farmers often specialized in certain crops or livestock. The chicken farmer might trade 3 chickens with the wheat farmer to get 10 lbs of wheat to make some bread to feed his family.  Similarly, if you have 100 cans of beans but no can opener you are going to need to trade a few of those cans with someone that has a can opener. You might trade a few more cans to someone with a lighter or stove so that you can cook those beans. The value of the item will depend on the needs others and how easy said item is to come by. In other words supply and demand. If you are the only one on the block with sugar and everyone wants some you can set the price as you see fit.

During a crisis, anxiety will increase. This will be especially challenging for individuals with addictions. Alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and tea will be in high demand. Stockpile these items or learn how to make moonshine at home. Alcohol also has medical uses.

Soap will be necessary to stave off infections. Shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and floss will keep you clean and help you feel more human again. You would be surprised what people are willing to pay for a hot shower. Lotion and chapstick won’t just make you feel better but they can help your skin from cracking and getting irritated.

Many people stockpile food but not everyone thinks about how they are going to cook it during a power outage. Firewood and lighters will provide a warm meal. Propane and a camp stove will make cooking even easier. MRE’s and dried beans aren’t too exciting after a while. Salt, sugar, and other spices can make all the difference. Salt a critical part of our diet. Hard candies are a luxury which are easy to store and trade. Without clean drinking water, you will die. Water filters and water purification tablets will be in high demand.

Everyone is going to need a warm and dry place to sleep. Sleeping bags and camping tents will be essential. Even just a tarp and a bungee cord will go a long way. Candles and flashlights will be used to light homes and tents during power outages. Keep a variety of battery sizes for trading.

Gardening tool and seeds will provide food for the long-term. Google and the internet will be long gone so books will be the only source of knowledge. Books on different subjects will be great for bartering. People will have to learn new skills. Maybe you already have some skills you could barter with such as fishing, nursing, or engineering.

Essential Items for Bartering 

  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes
  • Batteries (variety of sizes)
  • Silver and gold
  • Toiletry items (toothbrushes, floss, etc.)
  • Soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Shampoo
  • Food
  • Cash
  • Solar shower
  • Ammunition
  • Lighters and matches
  • Propane, fuel, gasoline
  • Water purification tablets
  • Medical supplies
  • Skills (mechanics, nursing, etc.)
  • Candles
  • Condoms
  • Coffee
  • Water filters
  • Hard Candies
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Spices
  • Seeds
  • Duct Tape
  • Fishing Gear
  • Gardening Tools
  • Lotion and Chapstick
  • Baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula)
  • Books (gardening, childbirth, etc.)
  • Papers and Pens
  • Rope and Bungie Cords
  • Tarps
  • Sleeping bags
  • Camping Tents
  • Camping Stoves
  • Can Opener


Greatest Pandemics in Last 100 Years

Contagious diseases spread like wildfire and can kill millions of people.  The most well-known pandemic was probably Bubonic Plague or Black Death. The Black Plague ravaged Europe, Africa, and Asia from 1346-1353. It is estimated to have killed anywhere from 75 to 200 million people. Infected fleas traveled on the backs of rats stowed away on merchant ships. Port towns were the perfect breeding ground for disease as densely populated urban areas.

Influenza or the flu is most common killer as far as contagious diseases are concerned. According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu kills around 36 thousand people in the United States each year. Most deaths are caused by complications from the flu. Children under 2 years old and adults over 65 years old are the most vulnerable to the virus.

Thousands die every year from the flu, however, it is only considered a pandemic if the disease spreads across a wide geographical location, such as a continent. The disease must also affect an especially high proportion of the population to be considered a pandemic.

Sixth Cholera Pandemic (1910-1911) 

Cholera Pandemic has occurred several times, hence the name Sixth Cholera Pandemic. Cholera is caused by drinking contaminated water. It causes severe watery diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and even death if left untreated.

This pandemic started in India and spread to the Middle East, Northern Africa, Eastern Europe, and Russia. The disease spread to the United States. Thanks to quarantines and fast-acting medical professionals only 11 people died in the USA. This was the last Cholera outbreak in the United States. Cholera outbreaks still occur in India.

Spanish Flu (1918)

The 1918 Pandemic or Spanish Flu killed 50 to 100 million people. It is unclear where this disease originated, possibly China, but maybe the United States. Thanks to World War I and global trade it quickly spread around the world infecting one-third of the world’s population. The mortality rate was 10 to 20 percent, with 25 million people dead in the first 25 weeks. Unlike other stains the flu, this variant took the lives of young and healthy individuals instead of young children or elderly adults.

Doctors recommend getting a flu shot every year because influenza mutates and changes each year. Your body builds up and immunity to the flu when exposed to illness or the flu vaccine. Your body is able to recognize small changes to the influenza virus and fight the disease off. Major changes to the disease won’t be recognized and could be fatal. This was the problem with the 1918 outbreak. The population had not been exposed to this new variant (H1N1) and were vulnerable.

Asian Flu (1956-1958)

The Asian Flu was a shift in the influenza virus (H2N2). Major shifts in the influenza virus leave the population vulnerable because they do not have natural antibodies for this new stain. It started in China and spread to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States. It is estimated the Asian Flu killed 2 million people, 69 thousand in the USA alone.

Flu Pandemic (1968)

The Hong Kong Flu or Flu Pandemic of 1968 was yet another shift in the influenza virus (H3N2). Again the major shift in the virus left people vulnerable, with no natural antibodies to fight off the disease. It spread from Hong Kong to Singapore, Vietnam, The Philippines, India, Austraila, Europe, and the United States of America. The Flu Pandemic claimed the lives of more than 1 million people, including 500 thousand individuals from Hong Kong, 15 percent of the population at the time.

HIV/AIDS Pandemic (2005-2012)

HIV and AIDS were first discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976. Since then it has spread worldwide killing 36 million people. There are currently 31 to 35 million people living with HIV. Most live in Sub-Sharan Africa where 5 percent of the population is infected. Awareness and new treatments have greatly reduced the spread and increased life expectancies.