Find Cheap Emergency Lighting Before the Next Power Failure

Find Cheap Emergency Lighting

This post is by Bernie Carr,

A couple of weeks ago, the main energy provider for the city had two transformers blow up and over 13,000 residents in one part of town suddenly lost power.   It happened right around dinnertime – I am sure a lot of people were caught unawares.

So I thought, why not take a weekend and put together a bin or bucket of emergency lights, so you are ready for the next power outage.

Here are just a few options:

  • Hit the garage sales and thrift stores and pick up candles.  When I was at Goodwill I saw a lot of unused brand name candles, selling at a fraction of their original price.  Garage sale season has started – you may get lucky and find camping lanterns and flashlights at the same time.  I know candles can be fire hazards, and you can’t light a match if you suspect a gas leak such as after an earthquake, but for a simple power outage that randomly occurs, candles will suffice.  Practice common sense and keep them away from children, curtains etc.
  • Pick up tea lights at a discount store or at the dollar store.  Obtain baby food jars for free from friends who have toddlers, and use with the tea lights.  Don’t forget to pick up a pack or two of glow sticks a the dollar store.
  • Go to a home improvement store and buy solar garden lights  The beauty of solar garden lights is you can leave them out in the sun, they get recharged and you can bring them inside when it’s dark.  Place in a nice vase or stand and you’re all set.
  • Tap lights are great to have on the night stand, as well as in closets and garages.  Pick up a dozen and place them all over the house.  The next time you have a power outage, just reach over for instant illumination.  Just make sure the batteries are fresh.  Tell the kids where they are so they can always find them.  (Just be aware:  kids who love to read will use them as lamps after you’ve tucked them in!)
  • Before an emergency happens, take the time to make a cheap emergency lamp from household items, or a bacon grease lamp.  Or learn how to make a 2000-hour flashlight.  These are all super cheap and made with things you already have around the house.
  • Make sure you have enough matches and lighters.
  • After you’ve obtained emergency lighting, go a step further and prepare for the next power outage.  Having these items on hand will also ensure you won’t be one of the hapless crowds running to the store right before a hurricane or ice storms when all these supplies sell out.

Anything can happen that interrupts our electricity.   Hopefully your next power outage will be a short one, but if you do the above, you’ll be ready.

© Apartment Prepper 2014


Get out of debt

Monday Musings: 3/31/2014

 Monday Musings 3312014

This post is by Bernie Carr,

Welcome to another Monday Musings, where we share interesting links as well as updates on the blog and preps. 

It’s now starting to feel like spring in southeast Texas, with the bluebonnets and other wildflowers blooming and the air is heavy with tree pollen.  This also means stuffy noses, itchy watery eyes and nonstop sneezing for us allergy sufferers.  

First the blog updates…

Huge giveaway planned  I joined up with several members of the Prepared Bloggers for a huge spring giveaway.  The details of the giveaway will be published shortly.

Now for the links…

I hope more people pay attention  We really need to protect our electric grid – no one wants long term power loss

Newt Gingrich’s Plan to Stave Off the Apocalypse

Mobile users of sites – beware of ID theft  More news about accounts being exposed to hackers.

Feds: Fandango Customers Were Vulnerable to Hackers, Identity Theft

Spring is the perfect time to exercise  And it won’t even cost you much!

Nine Free Resources for Inexpensive Home Exercise

Using food storage supplies Great example about creative ways to use food storage stockpiles

The fascination of DIY Cool Whip

Handy skills to have  Even apartment dwellers would benefit from knowing some basic plumbing

Basic Plumbing Skills Every Prepper Should Know

Before an emergency happens, a chance to “do over”  I agree with the ideas in this article – now’s our chance to make it right!

If I Had the Chance to Start Prepping All Over Again, Here’s What I Would Have Done…

Take care and have a great week everyone!

© Apartment Prepper 2014

Avoid Boring Survival Food: Include Spices and Seasonings in Food Storage

Avoid Boring Survival FoodThis post is by Bernie Carr,

Once you’ve stored at least a couple of weeks worth of food and water, you’ll want to store a few of your favorite spices and seasonings.  Though it would not be life threatening to leave them out, your survival storage diet would become quite monotonous without a few basic spices.

Start with the basics such as salt, sugar, pepper.  Then add a variety of spices and seasonings such as: cinnamon, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, basil, oregano, parsley, chicken and beef bouillon, cumin, bay leaves.  Store only the ones you know you are going to use.

How long do spices stay fresh?

If you keep them in your cupboard in the original package, you can count on herbs and spices staying fresh for about a year to two years.  After that, the flavors will start to deteriorate.  Although they won’t turn completely bad (I’ve used them over the two year mark with good results) they will not be as flavorful as when you first bought them.  The older they get, the blander they get, until there is no point in keeping them.  It recently tossed out a few spices I never used after the initial recipe, after I noticed

Enemies of spice storage

Just like other food storage items, keep spices away from heat, light, moisture/humidity and air.  It’s best to keep them in an airtight container.

Long Term Storage

To make them last longer than two years, you can repackage spices and seasonings for long term storage.  I stored a few seasonings for long term by repackaging them in mylar bags, the same way I stored bulk foods.  The only difference was I used small mylar bags

Don’t forget to label and date your stored items.

Here is another method to store spices, nicely illustrated over at Are We Crazy or What:  Storing Herbs and Spices for Long Term Storage.

Final Tips

  • Seeds, roots and leaves will last longer than powder form, but will need a grinder for use.  I stored the powdered form to avoid the extra step.
  • For best results, rotate your stored items after a couple of years.
  • As with other food items, keep your stored spices and seasonings away from chemicals such as gasoline, kerosene etc. – these fumes can permeate and contaminate your food storage.


© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Will You Need Companions During a Collapse?

Why you need companions during a collapseThis post is by Bernie Carr,

A few months ago we traveled with another family to enjoy the snow for a few days.   Each family took their own vehicle.   On the day we were scheduled to leave, it snowed heavily the night before.  We were apprehensive we would not be able to get to the road without a snow plow, and there were none available.  Our vehicle made it just fine, but our friends’ car got stuck in the deep snow.  Fortunately we were able to tow them out.

This event got me thinking about the need for companions when things get rough.   While the idea of the “lone wolf survivor” may be appealing to some, the reality is life would be so much tougher if you had to go at it alone.

Safety and Security

The old adage about “safety in numbers” is true, but only if you pick the right companions.  They would have to be people you can trust.

In one of the books I recently read, Going Home by A. American the main character originally did not want any companions in his journey.  But one of the travelers who wanted to tag along reminded him he would need to sleep sooner or later and someone should watch his back.  This was a convincing argument.  No matter how good at self defense or how well-armed you are, when you go to sleep you are vulnerable.  Having others keep watch would be much safer.

Even during normal times, a neighborhood watch group can help protect the neighborhood from thieves and other criminal activity.

Food gathering and preparation

People can split chores according to their expertise:  some people can hunt, fish, garden, while others can prepare food.


Another good reason for having companions is to share skills and expertise.  If you know someone with a medical background, or other skills such as building and construction, sewing, canning, etc. you can help each other or barter your time.

Now that we realize the benefits, the real challenge is really getting to know your community.  Unfortunately, most communities especially in big cities are not close knit – some neighbors who have lived next door to each other for years barely even know their neighbors.  A few ideas to consider:

  • Take the time to get to know who’s around you.   I’m not saying you should tell the neighborhood about your prepping but at least get to know who’s who and build rapport with them.  It takes a while to find trust worthy people.
  • If you don’t think they are reliable find some other like-minded friends or family members and develop a relationship.
  • Don’t be heavy handed in trying to convince people to be prepared; if they are so inclined, you will know.
  • Once you find people you trust, even if it’s just one other family, make plans to communicate with each other and get together in the event of a dire emergency or collapse.

© Apartment Prepper 2014


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Spam for Survival Storage

can of Spam

This post is by Bernie Carr,

For anyone who has never tried Spam, it is a canned meat by Hormel, made of pork shoulder and ham.  It looks like a pink brick when you first take it out of the can.  A lot of people hate it, but there are a great number of fans out there.   My parents actually introduced me to Spam.  Since they were kids during World War II, they grew up eating Spam as a special treat.  Meat was scarce back then so having a little meat, even from a can, was a good thing.  My Mom made me Spam and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread up until high school when I got too “grown up” to bring Mom’s lunches to school.


When our family visited Hawaii a few years ago, we found fast food places like McDonald’s actually served Spam, egg and rice for breakfast. We tried it and it was pretty good.  They love Spam they actually had a Spam Festival.

There are lots of ways to cook Spam, but here are my favorites. 

Spam and rice 

Slice Spam into thin slices.  Fry in a bit of oil until browned and sprinkle sugar on top, and a few drops of soy sauce.  Serve with scrambled eggs and white rice. 

Breakfast sandwich

Make a breakfast sandwich with Spam, a fried egg and American cheese between two pieces of sliced bread.

I’ve had good results pan-frying Spam as well as cooking it on the grill, oven or convection oven.   I know it comes fully cooked but I prefer is cooked crisp and slightly browned.

This is not a paid endorsement and I have no connection to Hormel.  I am always on the lookout for inexpensive foods with have a good shelf life that the family likes.  It comes in various flavors such as bacon, black pepper, turkey, jalapeno and hickory smoke.  I think Spam is a worthy addition to the larder, as it is actually pretty tasty if you cook it the right way.

© Apartment Prepper 2014


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Will You be Stuck in a Traffic Nightmare?

Traffic Nightmare


This post is by Bernie Carr,

We all heard about the gigantic traffic jam in Atlanta a few weeks ago that resulted from the unexpected snow storm.   You can’t really point a finger at one specific cause.  A number of factors contributed to the snafu, including lack of planning on the part of city officials, freakish weather, and some articles even blamed the problem on high dependence on automobiles.  Whatever it was, I felt bad for the residents that were stuck in unending traffic, cars running out of gas on the road, and kids having to spend the night at schools.

This is a nightmare that can easily happen anywhere.  It actually did happen in Houston, when residents tried to flee the city at the same time in the wake of Hurricane Rita.  Travel times to neighboring cities such as Austin that normally takes four hours, took 12-18 hours, and people did run out of food, water and gas in their vehicles.

And it can happen again.  It only takes one emergency that causes people to try and leave the city at the same time.  As long as you live in a metropolitan area that is heavily dependent on cars to get anywhere you need to think about the possibility.

Is there anything you can do to avoid it?

On a personal level, there are a few things you need to consider:

1. Start paying attention to your commute   Many people drive to and from work on auto-pilot, lost in thought and not paying attention to what’s around them.  I’ve done my share of long commutes, and sometimes you just keep driving without realizing you’ve passed certain landmarks and you are really close to home.  Start paying attention, I mean really paying attention while driving.  Know what different exits to take, rush hour times, bad neighborhoods to avoid, traffic choke points and other obstacles that you can foresee will keep you from getting home

2.  Listen to the news  A lot of people I know don’t care about the news and don’t even check the weather.  You have to be aware of what’s going on so you can have a plan for the day.  Have alternate ways to get news even in an emergency.

3.  Avoid the situation  If you hear there is a storm coming, decide quickly on whether you and your kids will try and venture out.   I know there is a price for missing work or school – lost wages, having to call your boss, missed lessons, but they may be overridden by safety issues.  Sometimes, the best thing to do is just stay home.

4.  Carry a car emergency kit     I wrote about building a survival kit for your car in case you get stranded.

5.  Know your kids’ school emergency plan  Many schools go on lockdown in the event of an emergency.  Know the procedures, how and where to pick up your child.   Make sure the school has a backup emergency contact in the event you are unable to get there.

6.  Map out several routes you can take to get home or out of the city   Most people will rush to the same route they take to and from work.  Plan your alternate routes before anything happens.

If you do get stuck, there are things you can do to help yourself, as long as you plan ahead.

  • Carry a car emergency kit     I wrote about building a survival kit for your car in case you get stranded. 
  • Keep your gas tank half full at all times  This will keep you from running out of gas in a traffic jam.
  • Always have comfortable clothes and weather appropriate clothes in the car  If you do have to walk at least you can be comfortably dressed and not have your feet covered with blisters by the time you get home.

Sometimes you can do all the right things and still get stuck anyway.  But planning ahead may help you alleviate or avoid a difficult situation altogether.


© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Having Gear Does Not Guarantee Preparedness

Solar ChargerThis article is by Bernie Carr,


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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Repackaging Salt for Long Term Storage

Because salt is one of those essential ingredients with multiple uses, I decided to add more of it to my storage.

I bought a huge bag of salt at Costco, but knew I’d need to repackage it for storage sooner than later to preserve its quality.  I know you can always break it up if it were to clump up, but it’s so much easier to use if it does not have clumps and is free-flowing.  I’ve posted about bulk food storage a couple of years ago, but this time, I am doing it a bit differently.

Salt for long term storageMaterials I used:

Mylar bags (one gallon size)

measuring cup or scoop

hair straightening iron

food grade 5-gallon bucket


  1. Wash and dry hands thoroughly.  You don’t want any moisture around when doing this.  It’s best to do this away from kids or pets, to avoid accidents with the hot straightening iron.
  2. Scoop salt into the mylar bag with a cup or scooper until it is about 1/2 – 3/4 full.
  3. Gently shake the bag to make sure the salt is evenly distributed throughout the bag.
  4. Squeeze all the air out by placing hands on each side.  Now you are ready to seal.Sealing a mylar bag with straightening iron
  5. Use the straightening iron, set on the high setting, and start sealing one side to the top of the bag.  When I did this process a couple of years ago I used a clothes iron.  But ever since I read the tip from Gaye, Survival Woman, I wanted to try using the hair straightening iron.  I found that it is so much easier this way.
  6. Do the same thing on the other side. DO NOT TOUCH the Mylar bag after you’ve run the iron across it – bag will be hot!
  7. You do not need oxygen absorbers for salt or sugar.  But if you are storing flour, rice or some other bulk food, you will need them.
  8. Label the bag with the item name and date.  This way you’ll know what bag to use first when you rotate your food storage.
  9. Store the bags in a 5-gallon bucket with a lid.  Store in a cool, dry place, with temperatures around 72 degrees or lower.

Here is a photo of the results of my salt storage project before I placed them in a 5-gallon bucket:

Salt Repackaged for Long Term Storage

How long will it last?

Properly stored bulk foods should last 10-30 years, however, other factors such as light, heat and humidity may affect the stored food.  If the food is stored at higher temperatures, the shelf life would be shorter.  Storing food in less than ideal conditions may be a bit of a challenge but don’t let that stop you.

Always rotate your food storage

To avoid food going to waste, periodically go through your food storage and rotate your stores.  Use up the foods with the oldest dates, and replace with a fresh batch.


© Apartment Prepper 2014



You’ll find lots of great food storage tips from Gaye Levy’s latest e-book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage, which I reviewed here Preppers-Guide-to-Food-Storage-268-x-403

Unconventional Water Sources to Consider in an Emergency



Store as much water as your space allows, but find additional water sources just in case.

Water is such a crucial need – you can only go three days without water.  A lot of people who prepare plan to fill the bathtub before a hurricane, ice storm or other predicted emergency.   However, if a disaster were to happen suddenly, it would not be possible to fill the bathtub ahead of time.

To be sure you are prepared for a sudden water emergency such as the one that occurred in West Virginia, store enough water for drinking as well as cooking, washing and first aid.  I know it does sound like a lot of water, but the alternative is not having water when you need it.  Start with at least one gallon per person per day, and have enough for at least a week, then go from there.

Include juices and other drinks in your storage, but don’t forget to rotate your stockpile.

Before an actual emergency happens, be on the lookout for emergency water sources in your vicinity.  Below is a discussion of possible sources of water for emergency use – some are acceptable for drinking, while some are not:

Your Refrigerator and Freezer

Ice and be melted and used for water.

Many fruits such as watermelons, melons, grapes, apples etc have a high water content.  You can’t really drink it, but at least they give you some form of water.

Your Food Pantry

Don’t forget canned fruits and vegetables come packed with liquid.  Save the liquid for water needs.

Expired bottled water may still be safe to drink as long as they were not stored next to noxious chemicals.

Toilet Tank

The water found in the back of your toilet in the toilet tank is usually clean, not for drinking but for washing.  However, this water is not safe to use if you’ve been using those blue cleaning tablets in the toilet tank.

Water Heater

Your water heater is a possible source for clean, drinkable water.  An average home or apartment water heater has at least 30 gallons of clean water.  In an emergency, you can use this water for drinking.  Before an emergency happens, take the time to learn where your water heater is located and read the instructions (usually posted on the water heater) on how to drain the water.  

Swimming Pool

Most suburban neighborhoods or apartment complexes have access to at least one swimming pool.  In an emergency, this water can be used for washing.  You should not drink this water, unless you are able to remove the chemicals.   Although the Berkey water filter removes chemicals, and even chlorine, excessive chemicals and possibly salts are contained in pool water.  Therefore, running pool water through the unit is not recommended unless it’s an extreme emergency and there are no other choices.  The safest way to make pool water drinkable is by distilling it.

Without electricity running the filter, the pool water will become stagnant and eventually grow mold and mosquitoes.  Many other residents will also have the same idea of using the pool water for themselves so it is best not to rely on the pool as a water source except in extreme emergencies.

Fountains and other Water Features

Many subdivisions and apartment complexes have fountains, brooks or streams running through the landscape.  Some communities have their own rain cachement systems.  Unfortunately, these water features are either treated with chlorine or contain runoff from the streets.  Runoff water contains metals, gasoline, herbicides, pesticides, and other dangerous chemicals.  Like the swimming pool, these are not good sources of drinkable water.

Collect Rain Water

If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, leave containers out that can fill with rain water.



© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Preparewise Lots of great tips for everyone: Bernie’s Book is Available in Amazon

10 Household Items that have First Aid Uses


In case of an injury, you should have a well stocked first aid kit. But in case you or someone you know gets hurt without a first aid kit nearby, it’s good to know there are a few household items that can be used in an emergency.

1. Sanitary napkins and tampons – The individually wrapped sanitary napkins and tampons are actually good to keep in a first aid kit. They can be used as a makeshift bandage for wounds.

2. Elmer’s Glue or Shoe Goo – These types of glues can be used to remove a sliver. Place a drop over the sliver and let it dry. Once it is dry, pry it off and the sliver should come off with it.

3. Super Glue – For a minor wound, super glue can be used to seal a cut. Clean the wound and spread a thin layer of super glue on the cut, being careful NOT to get any glue inside the wound. It can cause some skin irritation. (Note: The glue manufacturers do not recommend this use for their product, as there are medical versions available. But we’re talking about when there is nothing else around and no medical help is available. Do your own research and use your best judgement)

4. Duct tape – Duct tape can be used to care for blisters: cover the blister with gauze, then cover it with duct tape. Don’t let the duct tape touch the blister, just the gauze. You can also wrap duct tape around a sprained ankle to give it some support. If you have a cut and no adhesive bandages, use duct tape over a clean gauze (or use that sanitary napkin or tampon) to secure it in place. Just don’t place the duct tape directly over the wound.

5. Non-sudsing ammonia – A half water, half ammonia mixture can be used to relieve insect bites

6. Liquid dish soap – with some water, use to clean cuts. Or freeze dish soap in a ziplock bag and use it as an ice pack.

7. Credit card, driver’s license or other hard plastic cards – You can use a card to remove a bee’s stinger: Scrape across the skin towards the tip of the stinger; this way it comes out the way it came in. Rinse with water.

8. Wooden ruler – use as a splint by wrapping around the injured are with a scarf, belt or bandanna.

9. Honey – has many first aid uses, use it as a remedy for burns by spreading it directly on the burn and cover with a soft cloth or gauze. Honey is also used to disinfect wounds and ease a sore throat.

10. Oatmeal – An oatmeal bath can ease skin rashes from poison ivy and other skin irritations from chicken pox, sun burn or eczema. Place oatmeal in a fine mesh bag or cutup pantyhose and seal, place in a tub and fill with warm water. Soak in the oatmeal bath, and run the bag of oatmeal across the irritated area for some relief.


© Apartment Prepper 2014