Use Up that Mushy Watermelon – Watermelon Slushie

Watermelon Slushie 3This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I haven’t done a Self Sufficiency Saturday post in a while so I thought I’d feature something light and easy today.

Every time I buy a watermelon half of it gets mushy in the refrigerator before it gets eaten.  I end up throwing it away and I hate wasting food.   Learning how to use leftovers is a good self-sufficiency skill and also a wise use of resources.

One day I decided to experiment with the leftover watermelon.  I froze the mushy watermelon (seeds removed) chunks.

After they were frozen, I threw them in the blender (we use a Nutribullet) and made watermelon slushie.  It tasted great!  The whole family enjoyed it  We had a delicious treat and all the watermelon got used up.

Here is the recipe:  Please note these are estimates and you may have to adjust according to your blender capacity and to your taste.

Ingredients:

Watermelon Slushie 12 cups frozen watermelon (you can use fresh watermelon but add ice)

1 cup cold water

juice of 1-2 limes

1/2 cup of sugar

Watermelon Slushie 4Directions:

Add all ingredients into the blender.   Puree or blend at high speed for one to two minutes until well mixed.

That’s it!

Watermelon Slushie 2

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

When There is No Coffee

When There is No Coffee

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I’ve had a splitting headache since this morning.  I’ve tried natural cures, then taken Excedrin for Migraine, then later Aleve, but nothing has helped.  I was thinking “Why do I have this headache?,” then I realized I got busy and didn’t get my coffee this morning.  I always have two cups.  Now I am paying for my oversight.

This got me thinking, if there is a disaster and we can’t get our morning coffee, there would be a huge number of sufferers like me.  Mr Apt Prepper keeps telling me it’s time to wean myself off, but I am not ready.  What are our options?

1.  Stock up on coffee (and the water to brew it!)

Green coffee beans

Green coffee beans last much longer than roasted ground coffee.  My favorite is Kona coffee.  I keep a small amount with my food storage.  One of the first things I learned was how to brew coffee off grid.

Instant coffee

When I go camping or backpacking I bring the little instant Starbucks packets as they are lightweight and flavorful.  I have even tested the expired ones, and they turned out fine.  I have a about a week’s worth.

Don’t forget to stock up extra water to brew your coffee.  As we are learning from the recent water emergencies such as the one in Toledo Ohio, threats to tap water can occur at any time.  Make sure you stock up on water.

Tip:  Make your supplies last longer by using less and avoiding waste.  Some ideas:  Make iced coffee from the previous day’s old coffee.  You can also freeze leftover coffee or iced coffee and use to cool your next batch.  You can also stretch coffee grounds by reusing them the next day and using a quarter less grounds for the next day’s brew.

2.  Stock up on other caffeine sources

Tea

Like Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek The Next Generation, I prefer Earl Grey, and keep a box just in case.  I also have some Chai and black teas as backup.

Colas and other sodas with caffeine

I am not much of a soda drinker, but Coke, Barq’s Root Beer and Mountain Dew are examples of sodas that contain caffeine.  They may be an alternative for some.

Energy drinks

Red Bull and other energy drinks also contain caffeine.  But you have to watch your intake, as some have additional additives that cause rapid heartbeat or high blood pressure.

No Doze

Pills would not be my choice, but for long drives and having to stay up all night, they may be necessary to stay awake.

3.  Herbs or energizing herb teas

Certain herbal supplements and teas are known to boost energy such as ginseng, yerba mate, ashwagandha.  (When taking herb teas or supplements, be aware of both benefits and/or side effects.)

I have tried alternatives such as dandelion tea, which has a lot of health benefits, but I have not found one that is as satisfying as my morning coffee.  Flowers like hibiscus can be made into teas as well- see hibiscus tea recipe here.  Of course if it were grid down SHTF type situation, I am sure I’d be grateful for anything, even pine needle tea which I have brewed as well.

4.  Slowly give up the coffee habit

A co-worker of mine who used to drink two cups of coffee daily like me slowly got himself off.  He switched gradually to one cup of coffee a day for a couple of weeks, then switched to tea.  In another week or two he switched to herb teas and no longer craves the caffeine fix.

I’ve actually cut down from my previous four cups to two cups, but that’s as far as I got.

My excuse is, I don’t smoke, drink or shop for recreation, so I allow myself this one indulgence.  I just have to make sure I make it a point to keep adding to my emergency stash.  Even if nothing happens, I know it won’t be wasted.

 © Apartment Prepper 2014

15 Ways to Repurpose Old Nylons

15 Ways to Repurpose Old NylonsThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Nylons aka pantyhose, stockings, tights or even knee highs are some of the most commonly discarded items. It is easy to ruin a pair of nylons as soon as you open the package.  Before you toss them out, you may be able to get some other uses out of them.

  1. If one pair develops a run on one leg, cut off that leg but keep the good one. When another pair springs a run on the opposite leg, cut that off and wear in on your other leg.
  2. Wearing a pair of nylons under pants gives you an extra layer of warmth. They are almost like thermal underwear.
  3. Keeps blisters away. Wear nylons (such as knee highs) under your hiking socks to prevent blisters.
  4. Protection from ticks and chiggers: Wearing an old pair of nylons under your pants will protect your ankles from ticks and chiggers while you’re out in the wilderness.
  5. Strainer: My mom who grew up in lean times showed me that old, thoroughly washed nylons can be used as strainers, if you don’t have cheesecloth or coffee filters.
  6. Storage: Cut the legs off and you can use the legs as storage for onions and garlic. Tie a knot in between each bulb to keep them separate and hang the whole thing up.
  7. Scrubbing and cleaning:  Use a wadded up nylon instead of a sponge.  For hard to reach places, secure on a broom handle with a rubber band and scrub.
  8. Plant ties: Because they are soft and flexible, nylons make good garden ties. I’ve tied tomato plants against a stick or cage to prop them up and climbing plants against a trellis.
  9. Protection for growing fruit and vegetables. You can use nylons to protect a growing watermelon or squash from insects.
  10. Collect soap scraps that are too small and place inside a piece of nylon and tie a knot.
  11. Cut off one foot from nylons, place a bar of soap inside, tie a knot and now you can hang the bar of soap and keep it from melting.
  12. If you lose an earring or some other small object, place a piece of nylon over your vacuum cleaner hose, secure with a rubber band and start the vacuum. The nylon will keep the vacuum from sucking up the item.
  13. Repair a pillow, bean bag or stuffed animal that is needing more padding by placing wadded up nylons inside.
  14. If you don’t have string, tie several and stretch them across a space for an emergency clothes line.  Or, if you are just drying one shirt, stretch the nylon to span across two sleeves and tie the two sides up.
  15. Make a potpourri sachet:   Place dried herbs and flowers with a drop of essential oil in a small pocket of nylon.  Tie with a ribbon or sew shut.

Have I missed anything?  Please feel free to add some additional uses in the comments.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Don’t Toss them Out: 12 Uses for Fruit Peels

12 Uses for Fruit Peels

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

With the price of food so high these days, one of my goals is to avoid food waste, and have been finding interesting ways to grow vegetables from trash.  With spring comes a huge variety of fruit, which I enjoy, but I always feel bad about throwing out the peels.  So I started using them.  Consider these uses and you may never throw them out again.

 

Dried fruit peels

  1. Potpourri:  Dry or dehydrate orange, lemon, tangerine or grapefruit peels.  You can add them to prepared potpourri or make your own.  To dry them without a food dehydrator, follow these steps.
  2. Temporary seed starter:   This works for peels that are bowl shaped and sturdy such as avocado.  Slice the fruit in half, and after scooping out the inside fruit, fill with garden soil and plant your seeds.
  3. Shoe shiner:  Banana peels are great for this – just use the inside of the banana peels to shine your leather shoes.
  4. Marmalade:  Citrus peels are great for making marmalade.  (Note:  If you are going to use the peels for food, try to use organic fruit if you can.  Either way, always clean the peels thoroughly before using.)
  5. Air freshener:  There are a couple of ways to do this:  Cut up the lemon or orange peel into one inch pieces and run them through the garbage disposal.  I’ve done this for years and it does freshen up the garbage disposal and sink.  Or, take whatever citrus peels you have a boil for a few minutes.  The smell will freshen up your kitchen.
  6. Hand softener:  My dad actually taught me this trick:  After peeling a pineapple, rub the fruit side all over your hands and leave on for a few minutes before washing.   Your hands will feel really soft.  Pineapple has an enzyme called bromelain that has anti-inflammatory and cleansing properties.
  7. Sink scrubber:  After squeezing the juice out, I’ve used lemon and orange peel slices as sink or counter scrubbers.  The leftover juice is great for cleaning, and the pulpy part is great for removing grime.
  8. Insect repellant:  Release the orange oil but rubbing the outer part of the orange skin on your skin.  These oils repel mosquitoes and other flying insects.  (Test on a small area first to avoid irritation.)  Orange peels will also repel ants – just leave in areas infested by ants.
  9. Cat repellant:  To keep cats from digging up your garden, leave orange peels around – they don’t like the scent.
  10. Compost:  Fruit peels are great for compost.  If you don’t have space to have a compost pile, you can also cut up the peels and bury them around your garden.  The peels will decompose and supplement your soil.Lemon-vinegar cleaner
  11. Addition to natural cleaners:  Add lemon or orange peels to a jar and fill with vinegar.  Leave it alone for a week or two, strain and use as grease cutter or all-purpose cleaner.  Here is a good recipe for homemade cleaner.
  12. Tea flavoring:  Even after squeezing the juice out, you can use orange, lemon or grapefruit and a flavoring for teas.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

Having Gear Does Not Guarantee Preparedness

Solar ChargerThis article is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

 

One of the first things people do when they get interested in prepping is going out and buying gear.  It is great to have a list and just check off items you already just purchased.  Whew!  Got the stuff, now I’m prepared.  Well… sort of.  There is one critical step that is being missed.

Use it!

I’ve heard and read comments from people who, on one hand, have made the commitment to be prepared and are buying the items needed;  but on the other hand, when asked how the things worked, they say, “I don’t know, I haven’t opened the box yet-I’m saving it for an emergency..”  I am glad they are getting started, but not even opening the box to check it is a critical error.

Here’s why:

The item might not work.   When we first got started we bought some cheap stuff that ended up being junk.   Sure, it might be better than nothing, but why rely on something that will fail you when you most need it?  Being in the middle of a power outage would not be a good time to find out your flashlight does not work, or you did not have the correct size batteries for it.  Which brings me to the next point…

Know what you actually need to make the item work.   For example if you have a backpacking stove for a power outage, you will need fuel for that stove.  If you had never opened the box, you may not know this until the day you try to use it.

Some gear need maintenance  Knives, machetes and other items with edges need be sharpened or oiled, firearms need to be cleaned, even

Know how outside factors affect the use of some items  Until you actually practice with the gear, you won’t know how it will work in the “real world”  You may remember my bear spray experiment  where we found out how just how fast you need to use that spray when being attacked, and how a small change in wind direction will affect you.

Read the instructions!  Some things are self-explanatory, but some things are not.  For me, putting a tent together is NOT self-explanatory.   If you have a tent as part of your bug out gear, do yourself a favor and practice with it a few times.  Try assembling it in the day, as well as in the dark.  Putting a tent together at night is a whole experience in itself… especially with kids around.   I know it sounds tedious, but imagine if you were stranded somewhere, and you’re trying to build a tent you’ve never seen assembled, with parts that are still encased in plastic, in the dark, in a rainstorm.

Some items don’t last long   Check your supplies a couple of times a year, so you’ll  know what items have expired or deteriorated over time.  Then you’ll have a chance to repair or replace damaged goods.

Or they may not fit   Another reason to try things out are size changes.  Kids quickly outgrow clothes, backpacks and footwear; adults gain or lose weight so any items that no longer fit should be replaced.

There you have it, a cold, rainy day or a snow bound weekend when you are stuck at  home would be a great opportunity to check your emergency stuff and try things out.  Do it now, before you find yourself in a real emergency.

 © Apartment Prepper 2014

 

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Use Prepper Skills to Avoid Wasting Food

Croutons

Don’t throw out old bread – make croutons!

I was catching up on my article reader and found these two articles about food waste that riled me up: About 40 Percent Of All Food In The United States Is Thrown In The Garbage  and Top 20 Foods Wasted

It is such as shame that so much food is wasted while other people are going hungry.   We can’t do anything about industrial food waste, but we can certainly minimize throwing away good food in our own homes.

The same self-sufficiency skills that we are learning as preppers also come in handy in helping stretch the food dollar by avoiding waste.

Cooking

  • Use your cooking skills to rescue overripe bananas from the trash by making banana bread.
  • Make croutons out of dry, old bread before it turns moldy.  Here’s a quick recipe:  Slice the bread into small squares.  Drizzle olive oil over the bread pieces.  Sprinkle garlic and onion salt over the mixture as well; use your favorite herbs such as basil, oregano etc for flavor.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (your oven temps may vary).  Check periodically to make your croutons don’t get overly brown.
  • Make soup or broth out of roast chicken bones, and vegetable scraps.  Store bits of leftover meats, vegetables and starches in a large plastic container in your freezer.  Once you have a good amount, add chicken or beef broth, a few herbs such as parsley and a bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and make soup.
  • When you carve your Halloween pumpkin, don’t throw out the pumpkin seeds.  Wash the seeds thoroughly, removing any pulp.  Dry on a towel or paper towels.  Spread them on a cookie sheet and mix with 2 tbsp of oil.  Add you favorite seasonings or just plain salt and bake in the over at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Keep checking every 10 minutes to they don’t brown too much.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Add some more seasoning if you like.  That’s it!
  • Make it a habit to eat leftovers for lunch the next day.  Now that the holidays are only a few months away, you will have lots of opportunities to stretch your food budget:  See Avoid Holiday Food Waste
  • If your family does not like leftovers, cook less food.  Cut the recipe in half.

Drying

  • I was guilty of using only a pinch of herbs for a recipe and allowing the rest to wilt in the fridge – until I tried drying the herbs myself.  I don’t own a food dehydrated yet, but it is easy to do:  See Drying Herbs without a Food Dehydrator

Canning

  • Canning is a great way to preserve the bounty of each season.  Or, if you find you have an overabundance of a certain fruit in your yard, don’t let them go to waste by canning the extra fruit.  If you don’t want to commit to buying canning equipment, make refrigerator preserves.  They won’t last as long, but at least you can make use of the fruit for a longer time.

Gardening

  • Some of my most popular posts last year was about growing food from trash.  I was surprised to find that new growths could come out of green onion roots, celery stumps and discarded ginger pieces.
  • Use old coffee grounds and crushed egg shells to supplement your soil.

These are just a few ideas for rescuing food and making use of items that would have otherwise been thrown out.  Please share your favorite tips in the comments so everyone can pick up a few ideas.

 

 

 

Self-Sufficient Saturdays: How to Make Banana Muffins without an Electric Mixer

Banana muffin1

Welcome to the latest Self-Sufficient Saturdays feature, where we try out projects that can easily be done in an apartment.

Breakfast muffins are a staple at our house for busy weekday breakfasts.  I used to buy them at the store until I found out how easy it is to make muffins yourself.  There are no special ingredients, and you can rescue overripe, black bananas from getting thrown out.

Just one problem:  my cheap hand mixer that I’ve had for six years finally gave up.

My original recipe required an electric mixer to blend all the ingredients.  Creaming butter and sugar just does not work well without one.   I’ve tried it, and the results were not great.  Through trial and error, I finally found a muffin recipe that works well with hand mixing.  Here is the recipe.

Mushy bananas1

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp sour cream or plain yogurt (I used the homemade kind)
  • Optional:  paper muffin cups to line the muffin tin, OR use cooking oil to grease the muffin tin

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line the muffin tin with paper cups if you are using them; otherwise, grease the muffin tin with cooking oil.

2.  Mash the bananas with a fork in a large mixing bowl.

3.  With a spatula or large spoon, mix the melted butter with the mashed bananas.

4.  Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla.

5.  Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last and keeping mixing.  You can tell it is well mixed when you no longer see any dry powdery lumps.

Scooping muffin mix1

6.  Pour the mixture into the muffin tin. Tip:  The easiest way to do it is by using an ice cream scoop to pour the muffin mix into the muffin cups.

7.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.  My oven gets very hot so it only takes about 35 minutes so check often.  You can tell the muffins are done when you poke with a fork and the fork comes out clean.   I plan to buy a solar oven one of these days, (as soon as the budget allows) and this will be one of the first recipes I plan to make in a solar oven.

These muffins will stay fresh in the fridge from one to two weeks.  But they may get eaten way before then!

 

Bartering For Preppers

Bartering for Preppers is a Guest Post by Robert Creech

As everyone who engages in some form of prepping knows, it’s expensive. Most of us will never have all of the gear and resources we want, instead we prioritize and get by with what we can. However I’ve found that many people are leaving money on the table, so to speak, because they have skills (and maybe resources) that they aren’t fully utilizing. Yes, I’m talking about bartering.

You have to remember that every other prepper is like you; they’re trying to acquire skills and resources on a limited budget, to learn everything they can about self-sufficiency. They’re also people trying to make a living and get by, so any opportunity they have to barter, to gain something, is almost always welcome. How about you? Are you willing to teach someone a skill, or trade a service or resource you have?

Do you have a particular skill set that others might be interested in? Maybe you’ve become quite adept at apartment gardening and have perfected ways to grow essential plants in a terrace garden or from balcony planters. You would be surprised at the number of people in your area who would be willing to trade something they have for you to teach them how to start gardening, one of the fastest growing areas of interest among city dwellers.

Maybe you know how to can or preserve foods, how to reload ammunition, how to set snares for trapping, how to secure an apartment from intruders, how to make primitive weapons… almost everyone has skills or knowledge that others would like to have. If yours is academic knowledge, then you can put it in a guidebook or e-book, and offer it that way. And it may not even be prepping related, the skills or resources you have to barter. If you’re a mechanic or plumber you’ll almost certainly find people willing to barter their resources for your time or guidance on a project.

So how do you set it up? Craigslist is perhaps one of the greatest resources people have… the Barter Kings use it for a reason. You can list your skills or resources in two different sections… the first is the For SaleBarter section, and the other is under Services. Simply write in what it is that you have to offer (or what you will do for them), and what it is you’re looking for. If you want someone to help you set up a solar oven, then say so. Perhaps you are looking for a new backpack because yours is too small, simply tell the reader what you can offer and what you’re looking to get.

More times than not people will contact you offering something other than what you asked for, but that is fine. Bartering is always good and maybe they have something else you can use, or that you can trade further. In fact you might be surprised to find that you like the art of bartering and meeting new people, and at how much you are able to learn along the way. Since you live in an apartment, maybe you’ll be fortunate and meet someone out of town who has property that you can use… for gardening or target practice.

And the final point to this whole bartering activity is perhaps the most important… you will be actively engaging in networking, building contacts and resources along the way, many of whom will be like-minded preppers. Before you know it you’ll be amazed at how much you can acquire and learn through bartering.

About the Author   Robert Creech began a career in law enforcement in the early 1990’s, culminating in serving as the elected Sheriff of his county for two terms. He’s a graduate of two state law enforcement academies as well as many executive level training programs for law enforcement administrators. Robert writes almost exclusively on Squidoo; check out his latest article about Prepping.   http://www.squidoo.com/prepping-preparedness

 

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Drying Herbs without a Food Dehydrator

Dried mint leaves

Dried mint leaves after 2 weeks

Dehydrating food is a handy skill to have but may not seem practical while living in an apartment in the city.  You may not have room for a food dehydrator in your small apartment kitchen, but you can actually dry herbs without one.

Most recipes call for just a pinch of herbs but when you buy it at the grocery store you end up with large bunch that ends up withering in the fridge.  But it doesn’t have to go to waste if you air dry it.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Wash the herbs thoroughly.
  2. Without tearing or crushing the leaves, gently dry them with a towel.
  3. Lay the herbs on a clean kitchen towel, or on a paper towel.
  4. Leave the entire thing on a high shelf or another out-of-the-way spot in the house where it can be undisturbed for a couple of weeks.
  5. Check in one week.  The photo above was after two weeks.  The rate of drying depends on the humidity level in your area, so your drying time may be quicker if you live in a dry climate.
  6. After three weeks, the herbs should be thoroughly dry.  This is what the mint looked like after it was completely dry.

Dried mint leaves after 3 weeks

You can tell it is ready when you feel the leaves and stems are somewhat brittle and can easily be crushed by your fingers.  Store whole in an airtight container, or crush the herbs and store in a recycled clean spice container.

Now you’ll have dried herbs whenever you need it for a recipe.

 

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Learning to Repurpose Items

Dessert platter

Dessert platter made from mismatched plate and candleholder glued together

It’s no surprise that with prices for food increasing, and income shrinking, families are having to cut back on expenses and find even more ways to save.  Lately, I have been trying to avoid buying new stuff, but rather finding ways to reuse items in other ways:  repurposing.  Not only am I trying to save space, but also trying to save money by giving old items a new use.

So far it’s been very interesting and rewarding to be able to find new uses for old items.  Here are some things I have around:

Old office pencil holder now holds combs and hairbrushes

 

Paper towel cardboard to store plastic bags

A discarded paper towel cardboard  now holds trash bags reused as trash can liners

 

Old car mat

Old worn out car mat now protects the floor  beneath the cat litter box

I’ll post some more as I find new uses for things.  Not very exciting, but repurposing items can help you save money and time.  And it keeps useful things out of the landfills.  If the economy worsens, then it may become a necessity to rethink of other ways to use stuff.  Might as well start re-purposing now.

 

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