Can Food Shortages Happen Here?

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

Puritan's Pride

 

 

 

 

Emergency Uses for Old Socks

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

Learn Survival Skills

Sign up here for free:

 

Using Four Year Old Rice

FourYearOldRiceThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

We are rotating the first batch of rice we stored away and replacing it with the new batch.  I bought the rice back in April 2010 but did not repackage it for for long term storage until November 2010.  Usually, rice that is left in a pantry with no special packaging will last one to two years.

Since this is the first time I am using my rice storage I was really curious as to how the mylar bag/oxygen absorber packed rice held up.  We don’t keep it especially cold in our apartment – usually 75-78 degrees, and it does get humid indoors sometimes.

First, Mr. Apt Prepper opened up the five gallon bucket.  I didn’t realize they are not the easiest things to open, which is actually a good thing, because you know the contents are safe.  After he released the plastic zip seal, he had to slowly pry open the lid with a butter knife.  It would have been easier to have a bucket opener so I added one to the Amazon wish list.

Rice in mylar bagOnce opened, we examined the mylar bags inside and found them to be the same as when we packed them nearly four years ago.  The bags were still very much air tight as they shrink around the food once the oxygen absorber activates.  When I opened a bag, I found that the oxygen absorber was still soft and fresh, and did not harden as expired ones do.  I poured the contents into a jar, and cooked up a batch.

Pouring rice from mylar bagThe rice tasted good and there was no difference in taste or texture at all.  I am really glad the process works, and feel confident the food storage will hold up for many years.

Buying food in bulk and repackaging it yourself is a cost effective way to store for emergency long term storage.  As long as you keep rotating your food, it will not go to waste.  If you’d like to get started repackaging bulk food for long term storage, the easiest method is described here.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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

 

Read this Before you Toss out Expired Medications

Read this Before You Toss Out Expired Meds

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I mentioned a few weeks ago I’d be clearing out and rotating my supplies.  Upon opening the first aid bucket, we found a lot of over the counter medications that were at or have reached their expiration dates.  The boxes and seals were unopened, so I was hesitant about throwing them all out.  So I reached out to our community experts, Dr. Joe Alton, aka Dr. Bones of www.doomandbloom.net and Dr. James Hubbard aka The Survival Doctor to find out their thoughts.  I gave them a list of the medications in my storage.  I did not expect a response from both, after all doctors are busy so I thought if I get one response it’ll be great.   I was fortunate to get a prompt response from both!   Both were fine about my posting their responses.  Here is what they said.

From James Hubbard, MD, The Survival Doctor

Most solid medicine stays good long past their expiration dates. Some studies have shown antibiotics, in particular, can be quite effective for several years. Usually, the worst thing that happens is the effectiveness of the medication gets less with time. I recommend buying medicines with the farthest expiration dates available, staying refreshed by using the ones closest to expiration date for everyday use, and immediately replacing those with a newer medicine. Store all in a cool, dry place. Moisture and heat can make many medicine deteriorate much faster than they otherwise would.
Here’s a link to a 2000 Wall Street Journal article. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB954201508530067326.html?dsk=y  The Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP) is the study usually mentioned when citing prove that medicines last longer than their expiration date. And here’s another article that has tables that cite specific medicines and their extension times. http://www.ofcaems.org/ds-Stability_Profiles.pdf
Dr. Hubbard did suggest I could start a new supply and buy new ones remembering what I wrote above.
From Joe Alton, MD, aka Dr. Bones of www.doomandbloom.net   
Dr. Alton sent me a file:  http://www.ofcaems.org/ds-Stability_Profiles.pdf
listing the results of testing on expired medications.  He said, “It has all the meds listed, and I think it includes many of the medicines you mention in generic form. I would say this about aspirin: if it goes bad, it tends to smell a little like ammonia (just a personal observation on some very old meds).  Otherwise, I wouldn’t throw them away.”Here’s another article I wrote October 2012 about some interesting tests on some drugs found in a storage room of a pharmacy that were 28-40 years expired:

October 8, 2012 — An analysis of 8 medications indicates that most of the active ingredients they contain were present in adequate amounts decades after the drugs’ expiration dates, according to results from a study published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine. 

Lee Cantrell, PharmD, from the California Poison Control System, San Diego Division, University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy, and colleagues used liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry to measure the amounts of the active ingredients in the medications. The medicines, which had expired 28 to 40 years ago, were found in a retail pharmacy in their original, unopened packaging.

To meet US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, an active ingredient must be present in 90% to 110% of the amount indicated on the label. Drug expiration dates are set for 12 to 60 months after production, even though many compounds can persist far longer.

In the new analysis, 12 of the 14 active ingredients persisted in concentrations that were 90% or greater of the amount indicated on the label. These 12 compounds retained their full potency for 336 months (Dr. Bones 28 years) or longer. Eight of them retained potency for at least 480 months (dr. bones: 40 years). Dr. Cantrell’s team was unable to find a standard for homatropine, 1 of the 15 ingredients.

Only aspirin and amphetamine fell below the 90% cutoff. Phenacetin was present at greater than the cutoff in Fiorinal (butalbital, aspirin, caffeine, and codeine phosphate, but was considerably less in Codempiral No. 3. The authors attribute the deficit in Codempiral to conditions that led to preferential degradation of phenacetin because of its amide group, compared with codeine, which is also in Codempiral but is more chemically stable.

Three compounds persisted in greater than 110% of the labeled contents: methaqualone (in Somnafac), meprobamate (in Bamadex), and pentobarbital (in Nebralin). These relatively high amounts may reflect degradation of other components of the compounded drug, the fact that the samples were produced before FDA-instituted quality control measures in 1963, or inconsistencies of the analytical techniques between when the drugs were compounded and now.

The new findings are consistent with the efforts of the Shelf-Life Extension Program, which has extended the expiration dates on 88% of 122 drugs tested so far. Extensions range from 66 to 278 months.  “Our results support the effectiveness of broadly extending expiration dates for many drugs,” the researchers conclude. They also point out that extending shelf life can significantly lower costs to consumers.

Limitations of the analysis, the investigators write, include an inability to confirm the storage conditions of the drug samples, as well as imprecise dating of the samples. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

 **************************

For the preparedness community, this information is very important, as it lends credence to what I have been telling you all along:  get your medical supplies together, and don’t throw out drugs in pill or capsule form just because they have passed their expiration dates. 

What did I end up doing?

I kept most of the bottles of aspirin and acetaminophen, rotated them for use now and bought fresh ones for the emergency supply.  I tossed out items that had changed in appearance and odor such as  liquids that appeared darkened, bottles that had tablets that were crumbling.

My thanks to Dr. James Hubbard and Dr. James Alton for their prompt and thoughtful responses.   The prepper community is fortunate to have their expertise to help guide us regarding these issues.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

Vote for Me!

Please click here to vote for me at Top Prepper Websites!

 

 

Uses for Paracord You may not have Considered

Everday Uses for ParacordWhat is paracord?   Paracord is often cited as an essential item in a prepper’s tool box.  It is a lightweight nylon cord that was used for parachutes in World War II. It is also known as 550 cord, as it is rated to hold up to 550 pounds. Paracord is somewhat elastic; it is composed of inner strands and an outer nylon sheath.

Paracord ihas multiple emergency uses such as stringing tarp or tying branches together, securing gear to a luggage rack or securing items to a backpack or go-bag.  The inner strings can be used as a fishing line, to sew or repair clothing, or as substitute for dental floss.

I have found that paracord has many uses around the house, and can be used in day to day living.

  • Make a dog collar

Paracord Dog Collar

  • Create gift items such as bracelets and belts
  • Use as a clothes line
  • Replacement for shoelaces
  • Curtain tie-backs
  • Desk drawer pull  (photo above) My work desk drawer handle broke and I was having a hard time opening it.   We didn’t want to have to go to the home improvement store to buy new drawer hardware so Mr. Apt. Prepper rigged it with leftover paracord.  It works!
  • Repair window blinds. 

Paracord used to fix blinds

I always thought paracord is a helpful item to have around, but now I am convinced it is essential not only for emergencies, but for everyday repairs.

I like being able to use preparedness gear for everyday needs. If you have other uses for paracord, please share them in the comments!

© Apartment Prepper 2014

Vote for Me!

Please click here to vote for me at Top Prepper Websites!

 

For easy ways to become more prepared, read my book:

For low-cost ways to prep:

 

Are We Headed for Economic Hard Times?

Food Line Great Depression

Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of dire predictions about the economy.  Whether they happen as predicted or not, it’s a good idea to pay attention to these signs.

This article for Modern Survival Blog caught my eye:

Major Stock Market Crash In January

If you look at the chart, the patterns between today’s stock market and the time period leading up to the Great Depression (1928-29) look uncomfortably similar.

Then I saw this one from SHTFPlan.com:

15 Signs That We Are Near The Peak Of An Absolutely Massive Stock Market Bubble

You can even find concerns from mainstream sources  Take a look at

Be Prepared For Stocks To Crash 40%-55%

Even Clark Howard who offers practical financial advice weighed in:

Is a stock market crash coming?

It’s Too Close for Comfort

Last week, right before Thanksgiving, it was announced at work that management had done some “restructuring”  and a few employees were laid off.  Those of us who were fortunate to have a job were asked to increase our workload to “add value” to the team.   I felt relieved to have a job, but felt bad for the people who lost theirs.

What is your Economic Crash Plan?

Think about your own worse case economic scenario:  for many it’s the loss of income.  Hopefully, unemployment benefits would cover in the event of a job lay-off.  However, expenses would have to be cut back drastically.

  • How long would your emergency savings last- how many months or rent or mortgage can you cover?
  • Start using emergency supplies to avoid having to buy food.  Find out about food banks and other services that can offer help.
  • Can you borrow from retirement plans?  In a crash, you need to take care of the present and keeping a roof over your head.
  • Consider which relatives can you move in with, if you had to.  As undesirable as the possibility might be, remember it’s only temporary and it would still be better than being homeless.
  • If you don’t have relatives you can move with, can you live in a truck or RV if you had access to one? 

It is hard to even consider these ideas, but this mental exercise will help you plan and cope better should your financial fortune take a turn for the worse.

What you can do now

I am hoping everything continues along as normal, and nothing happens.  But just in case, it is a good idea to implement a few good habits now, while there is time.

  • Build your emergency cash fund by using your skills to earn extra income
  • Go through your unwanted items.  Donate or sell them to make room for supplies that you do need.
  • Don’t go overboard with Christmas spending.  Set a limit for gifts, decorations and entertainment and stick to it.  Pay cash for everything.  Using a card makes it easy to overspend.
  • Look at each non-essential bill and decide if you can do without it:  gym memberships, premium movie channels, etc.  If you are not using it, consider getting rid of the service (but be mindful of contract terms and penalties.)
  • Learn to cook more meals at home, you will feel healthier by avoiding fast food, and you’ll save money.
  • Cut down on discretionary spending now, and send the extra money to savings.
  • Build good relationships at work and in your industry.
  • Stop incurring new debt, pay down debt if you can.
  • Stock up on food and supplies while you can
  • Get your checkups, prescriptions, eyeglasses and any elective medical procedures while you have health insurance
  • Learn survival and self-sufficiency skills now.

These measures can only help your finances in the long run.  Prepare while you can.

 

Camping Survival

Camping Survival

 

 

Self-sufficiency Saturdays: Reusing Zipper Plastic Bags

Just a quick post for today’s self-sufficient Saturday.

Part of becoming self sufficient is learning to make things last as long as possible, so you don’t have to keep buying replacements.

I like the convenience of zippered plastic bags, but don’t like the expense.  I resisted rewashing them because they took so long to dry and there is a chance for mold during our humid summers.  So I figured a way to let them air dry the quickest way possible.

Here is a photo:

Washed ziploc bag

  1. Wash the zipper bags with soap and water.  Rinse thoroughly.
  2. Take a carabiner and attach it to a binder clip.  Hang by the carabiner to a wire hanger, nail or metal shelf.
  3. Hang the zipper bag by one bottom edge and leave it to try.  You can hang multiple bags at once.

I’ve washed gallon, pint, sandwich sizes, all with good results.  (Do not rewash bags that have come in contact with meats.)  If you have a different way of doing this, please share in the comments.

© Apartment Prepper 2013

 

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared