Is Expired Food Safe to Eat?

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Is Expired Food Safe to Eat

Written by Julie

This post originally appeared in Home Ready Home

Last week, I went through my pantry, trying to get an idea of how much food storage I have. By the time the organizing session was complete, a dozen or so “expired” items sat on my kitchen counter.

In the past, I didn’t hesitate to throw a can in the trash if it was expired. And according to an article on Urban Survival Site, I’m not the only one tossing the goods. More than 75% (and some studies claim it’s as high as 90%) of us believe that food is unsafe to eat after the expiration date. This time, though, I’ve decided to change my ways and put the expired items back on the shelf.

Why?

Because it turns out that none of those dates stamped on canned goods have to do with safety.  A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic claims that expiration dates aren’t regulated like we would believe. There is no standardized system for expiration dates.

The study found manufacturers determine for themselves how to set dates, if they want to put a date on packaging, what kind of date they will use, and what that date means.

So what do those dates mean? 

Well, it gets confusing because there are several different types of dates used on packages—like “sell-by”, “best if used by”, “best before”, and “use-by”. Here’s how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines of each of these dates:

Types of Dates

  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

And here’s what the USDA has to say about expiration date safety:

Safety After Date Expires: Except for “use-by” dates, product dates don’t always pertain to home storage and use after purchase. “Use-by” dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates. Even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality if handled properly.

The only exception to this is the “use-by” date on infant formula, which is mandated by the Food and Drug Administration.

The bottom line is after the expiration date, the food may not be as fresh and it may have lost some of it’s nutritional value, but generally, it is safe to eat.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking—if you can’t rely on the date, how do you know when the food is unsafe to eat?

The simple answer is open it and inspect it. If it smells bad, looks off-color or has a funny taste, get rid of it. And don’t eat the food from rusty, bulging, dented or otherwise damaged cans.

There are also some online resources that can help you determine shelf life of your pantry items. Eat By Date  is my favorite resource and here’s one that my friend, Shelle of Preparedness Mama refers to: Still Tasty 

These sites can help you avoid throwing away still-good food as well as learn the best way to store food for optimal freshness and longest shelf-life.

P.S. If you need a little help keeping your pantry organized, I highly recommend The Preparedness Planner.

The Preparedness Planner

About the Author:

Julie

Hi! I’m Julie, a suburban mom during the week and mountain mama on the weekend blogging about my transition from country club to country living and from fast food to food storage. Follow along as I learn how to garden, cook-from-scratch, build a pantry, master back-to-basics skills and more.
Please visit Home Ready Home for the latest posts.

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Should You Keep Prepping When Things are Good?

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Should You Keep Prepping When Things are Good

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Now that gasoline prices are a lot lower than they have been in years, many people with whom I’ve been speaking with lately to be really optimistic about their finances.  Sales of trucks and other gas guzzlers have gone up again, as people forget about the pain at the pump.  There is good news about the economy.   Lots of conversations going on about the new car that now seems to be within reach, the “I deserve it” shopping spree and the high priced vacation plans.

Should you keep prepping when things are good?

It may be tempting to ease up on preparedness when things are going smoothly.  I am not trying to be Chicken Little warning that the sky is falling when there is not a cloud in the sky.  I think it’s great to hear good news about the economy and people feeling good about their prospects.

Don’t forget that our system is based on everything running smoothly all the time – and just in time inventory systems means stores only keep enough supplies to last until the next truck delivery.  If anything interrupts the supply chain for any reason, the stores stop selling.  One local disaster such as a snow storm sends unprepared people in a panic buying mode, long lines and empty shelves at the store or even dumpster diving when they find themselves hungry in the aftermath of the storm.

And at the same time that good economic news are being touted, we are still hearing about layoffs going on in the oil industry, steel,  and many retailers are closing.

Now it not the time to get sidetracked.  Even on good news days, you can sit back and soak it all in, but don’t let up on your preparedness efforts.

  • While prices are still manageable, continue to build your food storage, water and essential supplies.
  • While you have a job or other source of income,  continue set aside emergency cash and get out of debt.
  • While times are fairly peaceful, find a way to increase your security.
  • Buy gear and supplies that will help you in the next power outage or disaster such as solar chargers, light sources, backup stoves etc. while you still have funds
  • Get in shape now.
  • Get healthy; take care of medical and dental needs
  • Learn skills every weekend while you have the luxury of time.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy life and take a break every now and then.  Things can change quickly: if and when they do, you will be glad you continued to prepare.

© Apartment Prepper 2015

 

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Monday Musings: 1/19/2015 The First Steps to Take when Getting Out of Debt

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The First Steps to take when getting out of Deb
This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com
Welcome to another Monday Musings, where we share interesting links about all things preparedness, as well as updates on the blog.
First, my updates…
Add your “two cents!”  For our avid readers, our giveaway for A Time to Endure by Kyle Pratt is still going on.  Read the review and sign up for the giveaway here.  All you have to do is enter your answer to the following question:  What threats are you most concerned about this 2015?  What steps are you taking to prepare?   There seems to be a common thread in the answers so far.  Add yours and I will do my best to post articles regarding your most pressing concerns.
When getting out of debt is a goal Like many of you, I too have some credit card debt that I am resolving to pay off.  Although I am frugal and have been careful with spending, I have some old debt from the last downturn that is still hanging around.

Whether you have old debts or new debt incurred from recent Christmas spending, you know that feeling that comes over you when you JUST KNOW you need to do something.  But just like prepping for the first time, planning to get out of debt can be overwhelming.

What first steps can you take to when you want to get out of debt?

1.  The first step is simple but requires self discipline:  Stop using your credit cards!  Do whatever you need to do to get out of the habit of using credit.

  • Don’t keep your credit cards in your wallet within easy reach-leave them at home.
  • Store the cards away in a safe deposit box.
  • Some people freeze their cards in a block of ice, or take the more drastic measure of cutting them up.
  • Even if you cut up your cards, don’t cancel the cards because some creditors will immediately expect you to pay the debt in full, OR, your credit rating will be negatively affected by the loss of credit.

2.  Check the balances for all your debts, interest rate and monthly payments so you know what you are up against.  Knowing this number will stop you from being in denial about how much you really owe.

Once you’ve done the two steps above, you’ll need to track and slash your spending and make a budget.  I am doing various cost cutting measures and will write about it in a future posts.

Please share your favorite money saving tips in the comments! 

Now for the links…


 

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A Time to Endure by Kyle Pratt – Book Review and Giveaway

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A Time to EndureToday we are featuring A Time to Endure by Kyle Pratt.  It is the second book in the Strengthen What Remains series.  We featured the author, Kyle Pratt and his first book, Through Many Fires in this article.

What is the book about?

A Time to Endure follows Major Caden Westmore whom we met in the first book, Through Many Fires, when six American cities are destroyed by nuclear terrorism.  From the Amazon description:  “Caden struggles to get home across a stricken, terrified nation. In the second book, A Time to Endure, the nation’s economy teeters on the verge of collapse. The dollar plunges, inflation runs rampant, and the next civil war threatens to decimate the wounded country. In the face of tyranny, panic, and growing hunger, Caden struggles to keep his family and town together. But how can he save his community when the nation is collapsing around it?”

My impressions:

A Time to Endure is just as fast paced as the first book.  There is enough action to keep the pages turning, and it is a fast paced book.

The characters are flawed and deeply human.  While I did not agree with some of the main character’s, Caden Westmore’s decisions, I understood where he was coming from.   As the reader, I do not feel it is necessary to always agree with the character, only that the characters interest me enough to see them through.

A country in the midst of chaos along with the struggles of its citizens are plausibly described.  Despite the backdrop of rampant destruction, there is still some semblance of infrastructure and law and order but in a lesser degree.

A Time to Endure is a good read and we look forward to the third book.

Now for the Giveaway:

I am excited to hold our first giveaway of the year!  We are giving away a copy of A Time to Endure

 

To enter, just comment on the question below:

What threats are you most concerned about this 2015?  What steps are you taking to prepare?

The winner* will be chosen at a random “Pick a Giveaway Winner” drawing on Saturday, January 24th at 8 pm Central.*Winners will be notified via email.  *Winner must reply to email notification within 48 hours or other winners will be drawn.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2015



 

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Can Food Shortages Happen Here?

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Can Food Shortages Happen Here

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I’ve been seeing news articles about the food shortages happening in Venezuela:  people standing in line for hours just to get their basic necessities, their National Guard closely watching shoppers to prevent fights from breaking out, and rows of empty shelves inside the stores.

This got me thinking, what would happen if there were food shortages here?  Can you imagine having to get in line just to enter the grocery store?  Or worse, you get in line at dawn and by the time your turn comes, there is nothing left on the shelves.  What if you were not able to find your basic food items at the grocery store?  

Actually I did have one experience of having to wait in line for an hour just to enter the supermarket.  And when I did manage to get in, the shelves were bare and most of the items were completely gone.  This was back in 2008 right after Hurricane Ike swept across Houston.  The streets were flooded and truck deliveries were not coming.  That was when I learned about “just in time” inventory – grocery stores keep just enough stock until the next truck delivery.  I ever asked a store clerk if they had any food “back in the store room” and was told “stores don’t do that anymore.”  Luckily, the problem I experienced was short term, and stores started getting deliveries as soon as flood waters receded.

But this experience showed me that our system is vulnerable.  If the trucks stop coming, supplies aren’t delivered.  All it takes would be an interruption in that supply chain.

Back in World War II the US had widespread shortages of essential items and many things we take for granted today were rationed:  butter, meat, cheese, sugar, canned fruit and vegetables, oils, even coffee.  Shoppers could only purchase certain items on certain days.  It was then that people put up “Victory Gardens” to supplement their food and learned to conserve food and plan their meals.

If there were a food shortage today, I think people would be a lot angrier and more demanding and food riots would result.  I haven’t forgotten this experience: Up Close Reminder to Continue Prepping from a year ago.  And this was just for roast chicken running out!

What can you do?

Build your food storage pantry.    While things are available, and nothing is interrupting the supply chain, now is the time to add to your food storage.  Build up a few weeks worth of your most used foods:  rice, sugar, salt, coffee, olive oil, peanut butter, oatmeal, cereal etc.  While you’re at it, stock up on toilet paper, toothpaste, soap and other personal care items.

Avoid wasting food.  Learn a few skills to avoid wasting food.  I tell my kids, “Don’t waste food, because one day, you may miss a meal for whatever reason – getting picked up late, forgetting your lunch, and you will think about the food you threw away.”  This actually works because they do remember.

Start a garden.  It may be the middle of winter now, but spring is not far off – it wouldn’t hurt to start planning your garden, even if you only have a balcony or a sunny window.

Back to the original question:  Can food shortages happen here?  Some may say, no way, that only happens in countries like Venezuela.  But the true answer is, Sure they could, and they have happened before.  We hope it never happens but just like insurance, it’s better to have it, and not need it, than need it and not have it.

© Apartment Prepper 2015

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

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Monday Musings: 1/12/2015

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Monday Musings 1122015

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Welcome to the first Monday Musings of 2015!  I would have posted last Monday, except I was laid up from the flu.  I tried to be as careful as possible, but in spite of all my precautions, I still caught it.  Goes to show you, sometimes it is unavoidable.  But if you catch it, at least you can try to avoid spreading it to your family.  Good news, I am on the mend and trying to catch up with work and blog activities.

I should have more updates on preps in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I wanted to call your attention to a great resource, published by Todd Sepulveda over at Prepper Website called the Preparedness Review.  It is a collection of valuable preparedness articles written by several my capable colleagues, all free for download.  You’ll find the latest issue here.

Now for the links…

How to Make Hardtack

Preppernomics:  How to Survive When the Dollar Dies
Everything You Need to Know About Essential Oils (almost)

Get ready for the cold & flu season with these all-natural recipes — 20 of them!
Could You Make a Final Run to the Store Before the SHTF? Think It Through!
This is What Food Shortages Look Like

Take care and have a great week everyone!

© Apartment Prepper 2015

 

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10 Skills that Urban Preppers should Learn

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10 Skills that Urban Preppers should Learn

By Tess Pennington

This article first appeared in Ready Nutrition

Skills are a major part of prepping. Although it is important to have supplies in place; the belief is that skills, and not supplies, will give you a greater survival advantage during a long term emergency. Learning new survival skills and abilities creates a new platform of knowledge to draw on when times get tough.

Skills are a major part of prepping. Although it is important to have supplies in place; the belief is that skills, and not supplies, will give you a greater survival advantage during a long term emergency. Learning new survival skills and abilities creates a new platform of knowledge to draw on when times get tough.

There are many preppers who taking the time to make skill building a priority. The Survival Sherpa is applying his vast knowledge to the field and showing his audience ways to learn skills and be more efficient. Check his site out, it’s very informative. The Organic Prepper is turning her back on consumerism and focusing on finding local sources for food to create a food pantry.

There are many things you can learn to promote a more sustainable lifestyle while living in a densely populated area. In fact, 80% of the population lives in an urban environment, so do not let that stop you from your prepping endeavors.

Make the best of where you are and begin learning skills or continue refining them so that you can use them confidently during a disaster. Some great skills you can easily learn are:

  1.  Raise micro-livestock in small confines. Some popular breeds are rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, etc.
  2. Garden and produce your own food supply. You can easily grow these types of produce, even on an apartment patio!
  3. Forage for local plants and herbs. You’d be surprised to find some of these in your own backyard.
  4. Learn about hydroponic/aquaponic food production. There are many local classes and sustainability expos in your area that you can take advantage of. Alternatively, there are also community colleges that are offering these courses.
  5. If the proverbial S hits the F, we will see a lot of serious injuries, and even deaths, from people making unaccustomed physical demands on their bodies. Train your physical body now in the event of evacuations.
  6. Take an emergency first-aid class or self-defense class. The American Red Cross offers a variety of first-aid classes that you can take advantage of.
  7. Learn how to confidently use a firearm. A lot of dangers exist during and following emergency disasters. Learn how to protect your family by any means necessary. Many urban centers have gun ranges and classes to take to refine this important skill. This site can show you where the nearest gun ranges are.
  8. Start a prepper’s pantry and store shelf stable foods. We must put measures in place before a disaster is upon us in order to have these lifelines available to us when we need it the most. Check out these 25 must-have foods.
  9. Learn how to preserve your food supply. If you know how to dehydrate and use a pressure canner, then you are already ahead of the game.
  10. Go to farmer’s markets and get in contact with local growers and practice bartering. Here are some great tips on how to barter better.

Many families have to stay in urban areas for financial or familial reasons, but do not let that stop you from learning a more sustainable way of life. There are lots of things you can do and many people who are in the same place as you with the same interests. Sometimes your friends could end up teaching up and thing or two that they have learned along the way.

 About the author:

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared
 



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How to Avoid Contaminating your Family with Colds and Flu

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How to Avoid Contaminating your Family with Colds and Flu

Cold and flu season is in full swing and I am no stranger to the misery involved.  I still have posts going up, but have been absent from social media as I have been laid up with body aches, sneezing, coughing for the last few days.  Fortunately, no one else in our household has caught this.  During my last sleepless night, it occurred to me a lot of people must be in the same predicament:  if you are not careful, you can contaminate your entire family, and re-catch the virus yourself even as you are starting to feel better.  And the cycle can restart all over again.

Here are a few ideas on How to Avoid Contaminating your Family with Colds and Flu:

  1. Isolate yourself  – If possible, sleep in a separate room.  Avoid hugging or kissing anyone.  This can be difficult with small kids who need lots of hugs, but you have to stay strong for everyone’s protection.  Eat in a separate area if possible, or sit as far away from everyone as possible.
  2. Wear gloves and face mask – Cold and flu germs are spread by contact with the virus, whether by air or surfaces the sick person has touched.  Flu viruses live on surfaces for two to eight hours.  If you wear gloves and face mask, you will avoid spreading germs all over the house.
  3. Stay home – Stop going to work and get some rest.  I have been guilty of trying to “power through” a bout of cold or flu but I have learned that this just makes you get worse.  Getting a day of rest helps you recover faster thereby avoiding further spread of germs.
  4. Disinfect all surfaces that you may have encountered.   I have Lysol aerosol spray as well as Clorox wipes – no I do not own stock in these companies and am not trying to push them.  Try any brand you like; just make sure you wipe down light switches, TV remotes, door knobs, refrigerator handles, faucets, toilet and bathroom.
  5. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, using a tissue or handkerchief.  Immediately dispose the tissue or wash the handkerchief.  If you do not have either, turn away from everyone and sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow or shoulder.
  6. Wash your own hands frequently with soap and water.  Don’t just wash quickly and rinse – you must lather up for 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” twice) Get your entire family into the habit of frequent hand washing.  If you are unable to wash your hands, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  7. Stock up on over the counter and home remedies before you catch a cold or flu-this will help you avoid having to go out while you’re sick.

 

Prepare for cold and flu season



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Build your Cash Emergency Fund

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Build your cash emergency fund

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Now that the new year is here a lot of people are making resolutions to “save more money.”   I am one of them.  To be specific, one of my goals is to increase my cash emergency fund.

I used to do all my spending using debit and credit cards,  until I realized I needed some cash set aside in case of emergency.   Think for a moment what would happen if you lost access to your bank or credit card accounts.  This sounds far fetched but it can happen:

  • Cyber attack – As we discussed in this previous article, stores and banks are increasingly being targeted.  There is always a possibility that consumers’ accounts would be frozen temporarily as banks investigate the matter.
  • Your account gets hacked – If there is a data breach or if your identity gets stolen, a bank will immediately freeze your account.  And if the credit card is linked to your checking and savings account, you might lose access to all your accounts at the same time.  I know… it’s happened to me.  I found small multiple charges made on a credit card and reported it to the bank.  Unfortunately, at the time, all my accounts were linked to one bank and all accounts were frozen until they could sort it out.  I have since learned not to keep all my accounts in one place.  Keeping “all your eggs in one basket” is a bad idea.
  • Widespread power outage – If there were a large scale power outage due to some type of emergency, cash machines, debit and credit transactions would not work.  I was in a grocery store once when the power went out, and the only transaction accepted was cash.

A cash emergency fund would protect you in the event you could not access your cash for whatever reason.  You would, at least, have money for food and gas.

Money is tight for many of us and it is hard to come up with extra cash to set aside.

How to build up a small cash emergency fund:

 

  • Pick up change!  I actually know people who throw away pennies.  Apt Prepper son tells me kids at his school are too lazy to pick up their own change when they drop coins on the ground.
  • Keep all “found money” in a change jar.
  • Use coupons at the supermarket, but keep coupon savings in cash.  If you had a $1 off coupon, then save that $1 in your emergency cash fund.
  • Sign up for any product rebates you qualify for.  When you receive the check, cash it and save it in your cash stash.
  • Conserve water and electricity; when you get the bill that is lower than your budgeted amount, even if it’s a few cents, save the difference and take it out in cash.
  • Call your cable, phone and cell phone provider and ask the rep to go over your bill.  Review each service you are paying for, and ask for help in trying to lower your bill.  Or, consider moving to a lower cost plan.  Set aside your savings in the cash fund.
  • Save any “gift money” received during birthdays and holidays.
  • If you receive gift cards you will never use, sell them (at a discount) at sites such as www.giftcardgranny.com
  • If you habitually spend money on lottery tickets, take the money you usually spend and save it instead.  It is fun to occasionally buy a ticket but you have to admit, it’s usually a losing one.  Save the money instead at least for a few weeks; in a few weeks you will have a nice cash cushion instead of lost dollars.
  • Save any windfalls, work bonuses instead of spending them.

How much money you will need to set aside depends on your family’s expenses and what you feel comfortable keeping in the house.

© Apartment Prepper 2015

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Emergency Uses for Old Socks

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Emergency Uses for Old SocksThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Some of the most commonly thrown out items of clothing are old socks.  Even if you are careful about keeping them together, invariably, one will get lost.  Don’t throw them out – there are some good emergency uses for old socks.  I keep a bag of clean, mismatched socks for cleaning.

Here are a few more ideas:

Dusting

Instead of using paper towels, save a few tube socks and use them for dusting. Put your hand inside the sock and dust your surfaces.  Even the ones with holes can be salvaged for dusting.

 Warm your hands

Put socks over your hands before putting on gloves to give you an extra layer of warmth.

Prevent Door Drafts

You can also fill up the sock with other materials such as rags and use as a barrier under doors or windows to keep draft from entering your home.

Layer up

Of course, you can wear old socks under other socks as another layer of insulation for when it gets really cold. No one is going to see them nor care if they are mismatched.

Heating pad for aches and pains

Fill up and old cotton sock (must have no holes in it) about 1/2 – 2/3 full with rice and sew the edge shut. You now have an instant warmer.   Microwave the rice sock for one to two minutes and apply it to the affected area.  Or, use it to warm yourself up in the winter.

Ice pack

Similarly, you can use an old sock when you need an ice bag:  Fill a baggie with ice, zip it shut and place inside a sock.  The sock acts like a barrier between the ice and your skin.

Hiding Place

I sometimes hide extra cash inside an old sock and throw them among others. Just make sure the sock does not have any holes and remember where you stashed it.

Weapon

A large handful of coins inside a sock with the open end tied together can be used as a makeshift weapon in an emergency situation if you are being attacked.

Filter for Water

If you are desperate, use a clean sock to strain out solids from water.  You will still need to boil or purify the water, but at least you can remove rocks and other debris.

Scrubber

A single sock can be used instead of a sponge or scrubber.

Shoe Polisher

You can use an old sock to polish old shoes.  See Basic Shoe Care for tips and use your old socks as rags.

Cushion for Packing

I’ve used old socks to pack away fragile items such as Christmas ornaments, porcelain etc.  You can also use them to wrap shoes before placing in your luggage.

Prevent Scuffing

When moving furniture, wrap old socks around chair legs and other furniture parts that may scuff the floor or walls.

With all these multiple uses, you’ll want to give your old socks a second chance before throwing them in the trash.

Please share in the comments your favorite uses for old socks.

© Apartment Prepper 2015

 

 

 

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