Preparedness

Last Friday I was on my weekly Costco trip getting our usual six gallons of milk and a jillion eggs. As I sat and tried to decide whether to buy some canned chicken I had the oddest feeling come over me; it was a feeling that food would be getting very expensive and I would regret not buying that chicken. This is not my usual imaginings that I experienced. It was from someplace else. Inspiration? I’m not sure. Only that it made me panic a little.

Obviously it’s not a stretch to see how food prices could go up. Gas is a fortune right now, half of the midwest is flooded, and the South is trying to pick up the pieces from a tornado infestation. Locally we are experiencing the driest and hottest spring that Texas has ever seen. Strange, considering just three months ago we had record-setting cold temperatures. What else does Mother Nature have up her sleeve for this summer?

I don’t want to get all Preparedness-Freak on you but I was talking to a pregnant Prepper friend of mine a while ago. She suggested all the turmoil in the world is like Braxton-Hicks contractions to a pregnant lady. Just like Braxton-Hicks are not the real thing, not actual labor, just the body’s way of getting ready for real labor, we keep having incidents that should make us pause and think, “Am I ready? Could I take care of my family if something terrible happened?” Usually these wildfires/toradoes/earthquakes end up not turning into anything serious nearby us, but do we take any action? At some point the time to prepare will be over.

In the last General Conference Jeffrey R. Holland said,
“One way or another God will have His voice heard. “I sent you out to testify and warn the people,” the Lord has said to His prophets. [And] after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, … of thunderings, … lightnings, and … tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.” . . . Every sermon given is always, by definition, both a testimony of love and a warning, even as nature herself will testify with love and a warning in the last days.”




Since we’re on the subject, today we have a new preparedness item. It’s beans. Yes, beans, the magical fruit. Get some canned, get some dried. Just get some. Beans are cheap so this isn’t going to break the bank for you.

I recommend at least one bag of dried beans per person and 3-5 cans of beans per person in your family. They can be green beans, refried, black, lentils, whatever. This might be a great opportunity to try out some new recipes. If you have a fantastic bean-centric recipe, let me know about it and I’ll link to your blog or publish it here.

That’s a fun little phrase we “preppers” like to use to get our lazy friends and relatives motivated about preparedness. In other words, when you really need food, water and supplies it will be too late.

I’ve been giving you, my lovely and brilliant readers, an item per week to stock up on. It doesn’t matter if you’re Mormon, or have a cold storage room, or have very much money or space. The idea is to get something. The earthquake in Japan has reminded all of us how quickly our lives can go from normal to chaos. Most of us don’t live on the Ring of Fire, but there doesn’t have to be a big, fat catastrophe to rock or world (or cause us to rely on what we have stored). Most people in the country experienced major snowstorms this winter. Power outages are common. Or what about a trucking strike? Most grocery stores only have two days worth of food in storage. Shops would empty out fast. Or how about a really bad flu epidemic? It might be that we simply don’t want to go out in public for fear of infection.

What I’m trying to say is that everybody needs some spare water bottles and some extra cans of food. It doesn’t have to be some big thing where you buy one ton of wheat and powdered milk. Everybody goes to the store at least once a week. When you’re there just buy a little extra. Or a lot extra. You decide what’s best for you.

This week our item is canned fruit. What kid doesn’t like fruit cocktail or pineapple? (um, Arabella. But nevermind.) So get what you can next time you’re at the store.

This is an outstanding video that I played as a “commercial” at our last Enrichment activity where we played The Price is Right. Pretty Please watch it, OK?

It’s Monday, the day when I tell you this week’s item. Which will be THE most important thing in your entire food storage. And it’s not even food, it’s WATER! Fortunately you don’t need to have a three month supply of this on hand; although it would be nice. We’re going to take baby steps and get a few days worth at a time.

I don’t know about you but we had some scary weather last week. It really brought to light all of the holes in my preparedness preparations. Water is the thing you really, really don’t want to be without. (And heat. But we’re not going to worry about that this week.) We’re going to store up water by baby steps. So this week you water assignment is:

10 water bottles per person.

Just the regular size of water bottles. Round up if you need to–if you have 3 people in your family you’ll need 30 bottles of water. But there might be a flat of water bottles at the store that has 36 bottles–get it! Understand? Water is not expensive. And it’s the item you really do need to find space for. Clean out some stuff under you bed and stash some water bottles there instead.

You can do it!

First of all, the preparedness item this week is Spaghetti Sauce. It’s a pasta topping! It’s a pizza Sauce! It’s multi-talented! If you are aiming on spaghetti/pizza/etc. once a week, that’s going to be 12 jars. Think you can handle that? If that’s too much for your pantry (or your budget) to handle, then get what you can.

If you happen to be the kid of person who makes their own tomato sauce from scratch, then you are probably sneering at my jarred sauce suggestion. Fine. Just buy as many canned ingredients as you need to make your own. This is not the time to get on your high horse about fresh tomatoes and basil, OK? This is about feeding your family from food in your pantry. So get yourself to the grocery store and stock up. If you want to throw in a few jars of Alfredo sauce or something similar, be my guest. I’m just trying to give you some ideas, here.

Secondly, to completely change the subject, having six little kids was very hard when they were all 10 and under. Even 12 and under was difficult. All those sippy cups! And teeth I had to brush! And shoes I had to put on! And car seats I had to buckle!

But this! Older kids. Egads. This is making me long for the ease of bedwetting. I remember my friends with older kids telling me it was still hard being a mom even though their kids were old enough to wipe their own bums. I simply did not believe them. I thought older kids would just be like having a cross between fun roommates and servants.

This is my newsflash: They are still children. Even when they are taller than you and wear bigger shoes. They still don’t have a firm grip on responsibility. They don’t make the best choices many times. They still don’t even seem to grasp the importance of two very basic concepts: hanging up their clothes and throwing things away.

Over this weekend I had the choice opportunity to try to find two pairs of tights for the girls that were lost somewhere in the house. After searching high and low (and eventually finding them) I realized that my girl’s have been cleaning their room by stuffing things in every drawer and cupboard they can find. And the last two weeks worth of clean laundry? In a giant heap behind their closet door. Even India, my super responisble child, had her old tatty t-shirts shoved into drawers with brand new church dresses.

The boy’s had the great room switcheroo. Scary is the word that comes to mind.

I realized that they are unable to throw anything away. Every chintzy toy ever “won” at Chuck E. Cheese? It’s in their room somewhere. Their Legos have all had babies and the population has grown to epic numbers. And most of them are living on the floor in their bedroom. And that rule about no eating outside of the kitchen? All I have to do is look at all the Gogurt packages, chip bags and string cheese wrappers to know that they have been ignoring me for quite some time.

Please don’t get me started on the assignments, projects and permission slips that were forgotten until 10:00 last night.

Enough.

I have been gritting my teeth all weekend, chanting “Monday” under my breath. Today is the day that my reign of terror begins. Enough of consequences and trying to teach responsibility. It is not working. This is the beginning of Jennie’s Gulag. There will be no laughter or cheer eminating from my house anymore. If the children are smiling, I’m not doing my job.

OK, so maybe it won’t be that bad. But my gosh! I don’t know what else to do.

Let me turn into the woman I’ve always hated: the one who tells parents of young children, “just you wait”. Because I promise you will look back on those days of no sleep and watching PBS Kids nonstop and wish you could go back. You don’t believe me. But it will happen.

How did everybody do with peanut butter last week? I ended up getting nine jars which should last us for a few months.

This week our item is Cereal.

(Dry cereal, not oatmeal.) Is there any food more beloved to people than cereal? I mean, who doesn’t like it? It can be healthy or utter crap (yes, Honey Smacks, I’m talking to you.)

My favorites are:

Apple Jacks (which I never buy because it’s too sugary)

Quaker Natural Granola with Raisins (I also never buy this because it has 6 grams of fat in 1/2 cup. Yikes. But that’s why it’s so good. I eat about eight bowls of the stuff, which makes it even worse. Sometimes I’ll get the lowfat version. Not quite as tasty.)
Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch–This is surprisingly low in sugar. And it’s just so dang good.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch–Every time I eat this I’m like, “wow, I forgot how good this is.”

This week is going to be all about cereal. Yes, I realize it’s a major cash outlay. But be comforted by the fact that it will all get eaten (unlike, say, canned peas). I also realize how idiotic you’re going to feel at the check-out stand with sixteen boxes of cereal in your cart. I’m going to be right there with you, OK? (This also means I might have to swallow my pride and go to [gulp] Wal-Mart which has the excellent cereal prices. I will have to take Mister’s car which doesn’t sport an anti-Walmart bumper sticker.)

I’m going to leave it up to you as far as quantities go. Cereal takes up a lot of space so it might not be feasible to have too much. It’s up to you. I will be getting 2-3 boxes per person. That’s about 20 boxes. You may want to check the internet or dig out the newspaper in your recycling bin first to see if you can find some coupons.

Remember to just Get It Done!

P.S. My reader Jen brings up a good point: what if your family doesn’t eat this stuff (it never entered my mind that somebody wouldn’t eat cereal!) At church I have a theme for each month so if you don’t want to do a certain item you can easily pick something else within that theme. January is “Family Favorites”. So if you are allergic to peanuts or your family just doesn’t eat what I’ve recommended, then by all means pick something else! If you guys don’t like peanut butter, get some jelly. Or pick something else that your family really likes for lunch. Prepackaged tuna or chicken salad maybe. Just try to get something that is a “sure thing” for your family. Preferably something shelf-friendly (i.e. not hot dogs or cold cuts).

Yes ma’am, we’re bringing back the Food Storage Item of the Week. Wherefore, you might ask. I wrote this for Segullah on Thursday and thought I might post it here to explain my thinking a little. It’s more of a spiritual nature since it has to do with my job at church. If you haven’t already, please read the post that follows this one.

“We need a real firecracker for this calling,” My bishop said as I sat across the desk from him. “You’d be perfect. We’d like to call you as Ward Preparedness Specialist.” Huh? Since when does Ward Preparedness Specialist requires firecrackerish skills? I could only guess that the Bishop thinks of preparedness differently than I do.

That was last year.

After about 385 days of having this calling I now understand; nobody wants to hear from the Food Storage Lady. (Except for people who already love food storage.) I feel like I’ve had to turn my monthly preparedness spiel into a vaudeville act to get people to listen.

Yes, I could be dour and pious and guilt people into preparedness with quotes like these:

“Too often we bask in our comfortable complacency and rationalize that the ravages of war, economic disaster, famine, and earthquake … cannot happen here. Those who believe this are either not acquainted with the revelations of the Lord, or they do not believe them. Those who smugly think these calamities will not happen, that they will somehow be set aside because of the righteousness of the Saints, are deceived and will rue the day they harbored such a delusion. The Lord has warned and forewarned us against a day of great tribulation and given us counsel through His servants, on how we can be prepared for these difficult times. Have we heeded His counsel?” –Ezra Taft Benson (Gen. conf. 1980)

“Noah heeded God’s command to build an ark…that they might be saved from the floodwaters. Yet there was no evidence of rain and flood. His actions were considered irrational. The sun was shining and life moved forward as usual. But time ran out. The floods came, the disobedient were drowned. When God speaks and we obey, we will always be right.” –Thomas S. Monson (Ensign , Oct.2002)

Scaring people only seems to backfire, though. It’s overwhelming and most ward members would rather rationalize that somehow they’ll be OK. When afraid, many people stick their heads in the sand and try not worry about anything. Especially not amassing food and sticking to a budget.

I’ve used threats over the past year. I very pointedly told everyone in Relief Society that I will not be sharing my food storage. Especially with them, the people who knew better and still did nothing. After all, the five Wise Virgins were not asked to share with the five Foolish Virgins. The Virgins who did not choose to prepare were left with empty lamps, an “I told you so”, and a door slammed in their faces. Which, dear Relief Society sisters, is what you’ll get from me too. So prepare! But that’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?

My strategy now is that of a cheerleader. Did you know that the church isn’t really even pushing a one-year food supply anymore? That’s something to cheer about right there! They want everyone to get a three-month supply of regularly-eaten food, and a two week supply of water. (Once you’ve gotten that, then you can worry about dry pack canning and all that fun stuff.) So now food storage is about going to the grocery store, which you do anyway. You just have to buy a little extra every time you go. Isn’t that so easy? I give my ward a specific item every week to stock up on and a little pep talk about why it’s an important thing to buy. It’s a no-brainer.

Preparedness is much more than just storing food. I know that. Saving money, getting an education and learning to be self-sufficient are vitally important (Why does no one know how to sew anymore? It’s a travesty!) I just want to make sure that no sisters in my ward are in a situation where they have to watch their children starve to death because they chose to spend their money on fancy Halloween decorations or getting their nails done every week.

I guess it takes a firecracker to stand up and say that out loud.

I posted over at Segullah today about Food Storage. I’m going to put my post up over here too, because this coming Monday is going to be the grand kick-off of Jennie’s Food Storage Item-of-the-Week and we might need a little motivation. I did this a couple of years ago and people are still asking me to start it again. I am but your humble servant so I will oblige.

I am Mormon and my job at church is to motivate/enable/threaten people to prepare for the hard times ahead. If you are not thinking there will be any hard times ahead may I suggest you read a little book called The Bible. Even if you are not religious, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that economic times are not looking that great and, politically, things are looking shakier every day. Add to that some deadly influenza viruses and/or earthquakes and things might look a little dicey for the future. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you can feed yourself/partner/children/pets if the truckers went on strike? Or you lost your job? Or a drought happened? Or you were afraid to go out of your house for fear of catching something horrendous? Or Chinese troops invaded America (OK, now I’m getting carried away).

The plan used to be to have a year’s supply of food. Mormons are known for having stockpiles of food like wheat and powdered milk. For whatever reason (maybe people don’t know what to do with that stuff), we are now being asked to have a three-month supply of food we normally eat. Whether it’s cereal or spaghetti sauce, you should have extra on hand.

Here’s how it works: each month will have a theme (such as Toiletry Month where we focus on, get this, toiletries. One week may be bandaids, then next might be toilet paper. You get the idea.) It’s a little easier to keep items in mind if there is a theme that runs through an entire month. Each week I will assign a product to buy. You buy as much as you can afford or have room to store. It’s your decision. But at least get something.

Some of you might be the kind who get really jazzed about comparison shopping or couponing. While I applaud you, the idea behind this food storage thing is to get it done. We aren’t going to save up several weeks worth of items until we do a Costco run. No, no,no.

This is about making things easy.

It’s about getting stuff bought. So when you run to the grocery store because you’re out of tortillas and milk, throw a few extra items in your cart. I don’t want you to burn out because you’re making things too complicated.

Every Monday I will post a new item to concentrate on during the week. Hopefully after a while increasing your food storage will become a habit. Before you know it your pantry will be bursting.

I lost my mojo

February 11, 2009 · 7 comments

in Preparedness

I haven’t forgotten about the 72-hour kits; I just lost my preparedness mojo for a little while.  But I’m back in the saddle, thanks to the great Murphy’s Law article at The Epicenter.  Remember how I mentioned a while back that you’ll be going to the Army Surplus store for your next assignment?  Well, here it is! (You can also go to any store that sells camping goods.  Not like Walmart;  A real camping store.  But I say try out the Army store.  You’ll be in for a funky, fun time. (Your husband would love to take you there for date night, I promise!)

Before I give you this week’s assignment I want you to check this out.  It will take you three minutes to read and it’s great info. 

This week’s assignment will be:
a lighter for each grown up
a Sierra Cup for each person
“550 Parachute rope” (100 ft. Ask for it at the store.  They’ll probably have to cut it for you. )
Hand-crank flashlight/radio
Headlamp flashlight (batteries removed or they’ll die)
Extra batteries
Silverware for each person
Candles (you may have these at home already)
Duct tape (you can use this for all kinds of stuff. Get a big roll)
Tarp (at least two. Get decent ones.  These can be used as tents etc.  Don’t forget the rope!)
Ponchos (if you didn’t get these already)
Optional: hand warmers, wool blankets, MRE food, work gloves (remember that most disasters include major messes. Tree limbs down, broken glass, etc.  You’ll be glad you have these.)

You’ll probably find all sorts of things at the Army store that will be great in a 72-hour kit.  Go for it! We’ll be reporting with our stuff on 2/22.

Ok Everybody, how did it go getting all the food? I’ve heard a few people say that their backpacks are getting pretty full.  To which I have two solutions: parcel out some of the stuff to the kids backpacks if they have more room (yes, they’re heavy.  And when the time comes, they can deal with it.  If it’s a scary situation–fire about to engulf your house–think how much adrenaline they’ll have.  They’ll be super strong!) The other solution is to get a bigger backpack.  Smart idea, huh?  The guys in the army carry around huge duffel bags, but they have backpack straps so they can carry them easily.  Think like an army guy.  Go to Goodwill or D.I. and find something huge for $3.  Because it would be really crummy to have to tell your children that you could have brought some more food but your backpack was too small. You don’t have to buy bigger backpacks for everyone, just the adults (or just get a huge one for you husband like I did.  He has all the extra stuff.)

I’ll tell you this week’s items tomorrow. I’m still refining the list.  Just prepare yourself mentally for one thing. You’re going to be going to the Army Surplus Store.  This is a really cool place if you haven’t been.  I’m pretty sure they have one in every town. 

Here is why I am trying to get everybody on board with food storage and 72-hour kits. Highly recommended viewing (although it’s definitely Mormon, if that freaks you out.)

*My friend Darlene, a lovely Evangelical Christian, has this bumper sticker on her Hummer. It cracks me up every time I see it. She also has another bumper sticker that says, “Don’t let the car fool you. My treasure is laid up in Heaven.”