7 Ways To Succeed At Being A Charitable Prepper

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Spring is in the air, summer is on the way. This is the time of year when many people begin to pack up their winter gear and spring clean their home in preparation for the summer. If you are like me, I have piles of items I do not need anymore but still have good use left. These items can be donated to help others, and there seems to be a plethora of ways and places to give to. You could possibly help in more ways than you know by being a charitable prepper.

TIP: For help with your spring cleaning, get Survival Mom’s free ebook, “Declutter & Organize Your Living Space.”

A charitable prepper can give food

Food storage is an obvious place to begin, but you can do more with food than just donate cans before they expire. (FYI – most food pantries accept food that is 1-2 years past its best by date, but give them a call first to double check.) Having a food supply on hand in a well-stocked pantry means you can make or provide meals for people who need them quickly.

Meals are often needed for funerals, families who just had a baby, families dealing with illnesses or even people just going through a move or big transition. If you like to cook, you can make a meal from your food storage and take it on over. A warm casserole is easy to make and is always welcomed! Or, you can put together meal packages where all the ingredients are provided, along with a recipe and disposable cooking pan. (Throwing in disposable plates and utensils when you give a meal is another way to make life easier for someone.) Dehydrated or freeze-dried food can be put in large mason jars to make instant soups, tasty chili or skillet meals. You can find families to give food to by calling churches, funeral homes, food pantries or refugee/immigration services.

READ MORE: You can learn more about dehydrating dinners here.

Give from your garden

Giving people the means to grow their own food can not only help them feed themselves, but help them become more self-sustaining. You can read and learn how to save and store your own seeds. This is a great way to encourage someone to begin growing their own food, and if you are already saving your own seeds, you may have a plentiful stock that you could share from.

Consider putting together seed kits for people you know, or donate them with instructions to food pantries. Here are instructions for putting together a well-organized seed bank in an Altoids in. Some cities have a piece of land set aside for a community garden. Many of those who participate are lower income residents who are wanting to supplement their food budget. Call your local community center and offer your seeds with instructions for when and how to plant them.

Supplies

While toy donations are very popular around the holidays, consider other times of the year, too. Many hospitals, teachers, and after school centers would love to have coloring, crafting and writing supplies. If your preps include supplies from the after back-to-school sales, giving some of those away would be appreciated. My children’s teachers are now starting to request items for the classroom instead of for them individually. Children can even make homemade cards to take to nursing homes, hospitals, fire stations or send to military deployed overseas (visit USO.org for more information on contacting military members).

Use your skills to create items for giving

If you are a good seamstress, woodworker or crafter, you could use your skills to make items to donate. Bandanas, light weight hats, simple skirts and shorts could easily be made. If you can knit or sew, you could make these items and find a church, foster care organization, food pantry or soup kitchen to donate the items to. Some charities  accept handmade wooden toys to pass out to children.

Families in need often don’t have money for photographs. Offering a photograph session at one of these places could help capture a family’s memories. Another way to help could be offering to mend clothes or do handyman services for families in need. You could see if a local community center, church or library would let you host a class in its building for free.

Consider what skills you have and then figure out ways to use them to bless those in need.

Teach what you know

Sharing prepping skills by teaching them is another way to help people. Sewing, crocheting and crafting classes can be offered with supplies provided so that the people learning can take something home. They will then also have learned a skill that can help them be more self-sustaining.

Putting together small sewing kits for people attending a mending class to take home would allow them mend their own clothes. Providing a skein of yarn and knitting needles after a knitting class can put them on the start of making their own scarves or hats. Preppers tend to learn many skills to set themselves up for survival. Passing on those skills could be one of the best gifts you can give someone.

Big items

Sometimes prepping means stocking up and sometimes it means paring down. Walk through your house while spring cleaning and see if there is anything you could part with, like you would do if you were going to have a garage sale. You can sell the extra items and use the money to donate cash to a charity. Another option is to donate the  items to places where they could be used. Thrift stores are one good way to donate household items as a lot of them are used to fund charities. Another way is to contact your state’s immigration/refugee services and see if there are any families nearby who are in need of household items.

Money

Money is also another way preppers can help charities. Giving bigger tips, paying it forward, or just keeping an eye out for people who could use some help is a way to share your blessings. Consider paying for someone’s bill at a restaurant, pay for the person behind you in the drive-through, or put a few dollars in the Redbox DVD when you return it. Some find it easier to purchase gift cards to give to those in need. If you do have extra money, you can also buy things to help support the organizations and families around you. If you don’t have much in savingss, learn about the 52-weeks-savings plan so you’ll have money to use for charities next year.

TIP: You can read about how to make the 52 weeks savings plan work for you

Don’t forget that one of the easiest ways to give is with your time. Spend some time volunteering in your community. We live in neighborhoods and communities that have many opportunities for us to serve others. There are always going to be people around us who need our help. While we have many blessings, some have very little. Let’s take a few steps to make the world around us a little better. What ways do you find to be charitable?

How Training For a 5K Race Taught Me To Be a Better Prepper

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When I sat down last December to write down my goals for the year, I knew one of them had to be getting in better shape. Many preppers know they need to be in good shape to survive hard times. I decided 2016 would be the year I would try to become a runner. There is an annual 5K/10K/half/full marathon race near us every fall, so I registered for the 5K in January and started on the path to better health. I also learned several lessons along the way that taught me how to be a better prepper.

Part of my motivation is the extra baby weight I carry from having children. I’ve spent many years just focusing on the number on the scale and have realized that it wasn’t a great motivator. My weight would fluctuate, and I would feel discouraged rather quickly. Also, I wasn’t getting a full night’s sleep on a regular basis and that made it hard to work out consistently.

So, my goal changed from losing weight to increasing activity. Running is an activity that should be done consistently and constantly. It requires a commitment of a few days of every week to see improvement. I started focusing on my health and knew that the weight would eventually come off.

The first thing I had to do after registering for the 5K was to decide how I wanted to train. There are many programs out there that work for a lot of people (Pinterest is full of them). Couch to 5K is a very popular training plan. However, I didn’t think that would work well for me. I wanted to train to become a runner, not just run one race. I decided to just start running and add to my time bit by bit. I planned for 30 minutes on the treadmill and I started with jogging for 3 minutes and walking the rest of the time. Then, when that got easier, I tried jogging for 5 minutes, but not less than 3. Then for 7 minutes. At about that point, I realized I was jogging for half a mile. That was then my baseline and I added distance and increased speed.

I was careful to only increase my time, distance, or speed in small increments. I would stay at the same rate for at least a week before moving on to the next increment. There were times due to lack of sleep or sickness that I stayed at the same rate for 3-4 weeks, but I never went lower than my most recently established baseline. I did this to not get discouraged and also to avoid injury. I wanted to do my best to insure I would reach my goal.

And I did! In September, after training for eight solid months, I ran a full 5K. There was a hill I wasn’t expecting, but I ran up the whole thing. I did have to walk for 30 seconds a few times, but I think the hill cancelled out those walking times. I felt so good finishing the race.

Throughout my training, I realized there wre several lessons I learned along the way that also apply to being a good prepper.

Learn what works for you

I chose to train in a different way than most people do for 5Ks, but that’s because I realized I had different goals than most people do who want to run a 5K. I also knew I couldn’t focus on the number on the scale anymore or I would lose motivation very quickly.

Every situation preppers face and prepare for is different and unique. One family’s plan for a hurricane may be different from another family’s but that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Each person and family has to decide what is best for them after evaluating the type of threat using a threat analysis like this one, the resources on hand, and what the family can handle financially and otherwise.

Equipment matters

When I first started running, I only had loose workout pants, old tennis shoes, and sports bras meant for walking. I quickly realized that I needed the right equipment if I wanted to succeed. Blisters and backaches were not going to help me achieve my goal. I spent the most money on a good pair of shoes at a store that looks at your feet and gait – it was worth every penny! I found good deals on workout clothes and supportive sports bras. Some runners swear that something like a FitBit that tracks their calories and steps is invaluable, while others use a simple pedometer. The right clothing made the running more enjoyable, which encouraged me to continue.

With prepping it’s key to prepare for situations with the right equipment, too. If the spare pair of shoes under your bed are the old pair that gave you blisters, then you’re going to get blisters if you have to use them in an emergency. It can be an investment to have the proper equipment, but it will make surviving easier.

Friends make it easier

I had a support group through Facebook that helped encourage me as I was training. We offered each other encouragement, tips, and motivation. I tried running a practice 5K by myself early in the summer, and I found myself running too fast and then stopping to walk too much. When I ran the 5K in September, a friend ran with me and kept me at the right pace and encouraged me to keep running when I wanted to stop. A group like Skinny Survival Moms can encourage you, too.

Having friends to help you prepare can be encouraging, too. I have two friends that I talk with often and we share tips and things we’re noticing in the world to help us all be better prepared. It’s nice to not feel alone when you’re facing a big task.

Baby steps accomplish goals

As I explained, I took my time training for the 5K. I knew I wouldn’t be going from walking 30 minutes three times a week to running a 12-minute mile in a few weeks. I made small goals that I could attain and then set another goal. Having small accomplishments along the way made me feel good and kept me motivated.

The same can be true of prepping. You probably won’t have a ton of skills and three months of food storage in a matter of weeks. It takes time, but you can set small goals of learning a skill or getting a single week’s worth of food and then feel good about meeting that goal. Then you set the next goal and keep going. After time, you’ll look back and see that you’ve accomplished a lot. Running is something that must be constantly done to maintain or improve and prepping is the same way. There is always something to do!

TIP: Use this list of prepper baby steps!

In the end, determination makes a difference

Being a successful runner is more than just a physical endeavor. It is also a mental and even spiritual game. I did a lot of talking to myself, doing mind tricks to run farther, and I did a lot of praying. I really, really wanted to accomplish this goal and that sense of determination kept me going on the days I felt like skipping the workout.

If there is a skill you truly want to learn, you will find the determination to make sure it happens. If you want to become a HAM radio operator, your desire will ensure you find the time to study and pass the test for your license. Saving money to buy extra food and equipment can also require the sense of determination. The stronger the desire, the more determination you’ll have.

TIP: Many Survival Moms use the 52 Week Savings Challenge to meet savings goals. You can read all about it here.

You don’t have to train for a 5K in order to learn how to be a better prepper, but in my case, I realized how important it is to customize my prepping, get encouragement from others, invest in the right equipment, and, above all, never quit.

how to be a prepper

How to Use the Moon to Plan Your Gardening Season

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moon gardening season

Your best prepper resource may be hanging in the sky every night – the moon. If you’re a gardener, getting to know the moon and all its phases might give your garden a boost every season.

The worst case scenario that I try to prepare for is a long-term power grid failure. To help me prepare, I’ve learned to garden, cook over a fire and how to tell basic weather signs. However, when it comes to gardening, I’ve been planting using the first and last frost dates on the calendar. But in a long-term power outage, we might just lose track of time, days, and seasons. How will I decide when to plant if I’m not sure what day it is? Simple. I’ll look to the moon.

Learn the moon’s cycle

I am fairly sure that starting a journal to note events, weather, stars, and the moon cycle will be something I start on Day 1 of a power outage. At some point, if the power outage lasts a long time, I will probably lose track of what day it is exactly if I don’t keep a journal. Noting the moon phases will help me know a lot about when to garden in case I don’t know the exact last frost date.

The moon is constantly changing, but still has a very predictable cycle. There are 12-13 full moons per year occurring every 28-30 days. In the days before electricity, many cultures would give each moon a different name based on the season and nature cycles happening at that time of the year. Old-timers have long known the importance of observing nature for help with predicting weather.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Native Americans in North America named the moons as part of their calendar. Different tribes had different methods for keeping track of the moon cycles and seasons but still used these observations to track growing seasons, animal behavior, and more. Many years later, several names of the moon were incorporated into the colonial settlers’ calendar when they settled on the continent.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Web site says:

“The Full Moon Names we use in the Almanac come from the Algonquin tribes who lived in regions from New England to Lake Superior. They are the names the Colonial Americans adapted most. Note that each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred.”

Here are the commonly accepted names of those full moons:

Wolf Moon (January) — Wolves would typically howl at the moon most this time of year.

Snow/Hunger Moon (February) — Most snow fell at this time, which made hunting and gathering food difficult.

Worm/Sap Moon (March) — Worms and sap start appearing at this time as spring starts arriving.

Pink/Sprouting Grass/Egg/Fish Moon (April) — The first pink spring flowers and grasses appear, chickens start laying eggs, and fish can be found at this time.

Flower/Corn Planting/Milk Moon (May) — Spring flowers are in bloom, and it’s time to start milking animals and planting corn.

Strawberry/Rose/Hot Moon (June) — This is the time of year to pick strawberries and roses, but it starts getting hot.

Buck/Thunder Moon (July) — Bucks are growing antlers at this time, and there are often frequent thunderstorms.

Sturgeon/Green Corn Moon (August) — The Native Americans would find lots of sturgeon at this time in Lake Superior, and the corn is green at this point in time.

Corn/Barley/Harvest Moon (September) — This is the harvest time of year.

(Note – the harvest moon can be in September or October, depending on which month puts the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox.)

Hunter’s/Travel/Dying Moon (October) — The leaves are falling off the trees (dying) and game is fattened and ready to be hunted, which can require travel.

Beaver/Frost Moon (November) — Frost usually occurs at this time, and the Native Americans would set beaver traps at this time to be able to catch them during winter.

Cold/Long Nights Moon (December) — It goes without saying that this time of year is cold and full of long, dark nights.

Two special moons of note:

Blue Moon – A blue moon is the second full moon that occurs in a calendar month.

Black Moon – A black moon is the second new moon occurring in a calendar month.

By keeping track of the full moons and knowing their names, you can have a good guess as to what is going on during that time of the year where you live.

For example, if I start noting that the worms are becoming active again, the full moon around that time is probably the March moon. In my area, that is the time to start seeds indoors for pepper and tomato plants. Two to three full moons after that (May/June) would be time to plant. It might be a good idea to find out what Native Americans in your area called the various full moons, as nature cycles are much different in Arizona than Minnesota.

Plan your garden with help from the moon

During the gardening season, the moon can also be used to help with knowing when to plant. The first two quarters of the moon’s phases after a full moon are the waning phase where light decreases. The other phases are the waxing phase where the moon’s light increases. The moon also affects the gravitational pull and tides, so the argument is that the full moon also affects the water in the soil by drawing it up, helping with germination. The moon does affect groundwater tables, so the best time to turn over the dirt in your garden would be at the new moon when the water table is at its lowest.

“Dr. Frank Brown of Northwestern University performed research over a ten year period. His findings were plants absorbed more water at the time of the Full Moon,” according to the Ohio State University Extension Web site. “He conducted his experiments in a laboratory without direct contact with the moon, yet he still found that the plants were influenced by the phase.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests that root vegetables and bulb flowers be planted during the waning phase, as this time period has decreasing light from the moon. Above-ground crops and other flowers be planted during the waxing phase, as this time period has an increasing light from the moon.

Here is the easiest way to plant by the moon:

  1. Find your zone and your last frost date for the spring.

I’m in Zone 6 and our last frost date is around May 15. For the Farmer’s Almanac, I’m between areas 2 and 3.

  1. Find the moon cycles for that time of the year.

There is a full moon on May 10 and June 9 this year. The new moon is May 25 and June 23.

  1. Make a gardening plan.

From the new moon to full moon (May 25 to June 9) is the time to plant seeds for plants that produce crops above ground, such as peas, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers and asparagus. These plants are helped by the pull of water up in the soil for germination and more light from the moon during this period.

From the new moon to the full moon (June 9 to 23) is the best time to plant root vegetables like carrots, onions and potatoes, along with bulb flowers. These plants do better with a lower water level in the soil and less light from the moon.

A shortcut way is to consult the Farmer’s Almanac, which has a list that breaks down each plant individually and when it is best to plant it according to the moon’s phases by area. I recommend the purchase of this book, since it has detailed charts that will help you make specific gardening plans.

Use this chart to help plan your garden. Click to download and print:

I have not used this method yet, but I plan to this year. I plan to take copious notes this year with my gardening journal. I want to note the phases of the moon as I plant and harvest to see how well it works. I’ve made my fair share of gardening mistakes, which I detailed in this humbling article.

There are many websites out there that can tell you how different people use the moon as their guide to planting. If you find one for your area, make sure to print it out and put it in your gardening journal or reference information. It would be good to teach the information to your children as well. We’ve lost many tips and tricks for surviving hard times because they haven’t been passed down through the generations. The moon will always be there, though.

Have you ever planted by the moon? Is it something you would want to try this year?

A Mom’s Guide to Preparing For Civil Unrest

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Mom's Guide Civil UnrestOver the summer of 2016, certain websites forecasted a string of protests around the United States. As it turned out, these protests often lead to riots. In most cases, there is no warning for such events, but this time, we were paying attention to the news and knew where and when many of these protests would take place.

I was chatting with 3 of my friends, also Survival Moms, and we reviewed our situations. Not knowing if any of these protests would turn violent, we needed a guide for preparing for civil unrest. Each of us came up with a game plan.

One of us was going on a family road trip and would be making stops in three of the cities listed as protest sites. Another was home alone with her children with a husband away on a business trip, and I had a long-awaited date night scheduled that was an hour drive away from the children to a city not on the list.

Meanwhile, headlines from around the world reported civil wars, acts of terrorism, political coups, and hyperinflation.  Thanks to this family survival manual, I know how to prepare for civil unrest as well as these other events. Here is a guide for how 3 different moms in 3 very different circumstances prepared for civil unrest. The best thing about this? We are now ready for other emergencies as well.

On a road trip — Anita

Our family was in the middle of a 4,000-mile road trip when the possibility of spreading civil unrest became a concern in the cities on our route. We had prepared for a number of common situations on our trip, such as vehicle breakdown with a family emergency kit like this one, but we hadn’t even thought that we might have to deal with protests or riots along the way. Yet, being prepared for a few other situations served us well when confronted with this additional possibility. For example, we had already been collecting highway maps at rest stations along our way, plus we had an outdated road atlas in the vehicle. A good road atlas is one of the best tools to have for planning alternate routes, even if GPS wasn’t available in remote areas. It would also come in handy if communications were interrupted.

Along with emergency supplies and maps, we also had extra food just in case we weren’t able to stop and eat at restaurants as planned, like if we got into a destination too late. Of course, that would also be helpful if we were stuck somewhere for longer periods than we expected, such as having to shelter in a hotel. In a time of civil unrest, hunkering down for the duration is often the best and safest choice.  We had prepared some self-defense options, too, in the event of attempted mugging. While avoiding civil unrest is always better than fighting back, at least we weren’t completely defenseless if we did find ourselves in a scary mob situation. We also considered the possibility of unwittingly driving into a mob scene and how we might handle that situation.

We weren’t finished with our preparing for civil unrest There were a few more steps we decided to take:

  • We found local news sites for each location, and monitored local social media trends. We figured this would give us some advanced warning of anything unusual, although sometimes you may find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time and will just have to deal with it on the spot.
  • We agreed to keep the gas tank at least half full, even if that meant more stops. In the event that we had to leave a situation quickly, that would allow us to put more miles between us and any immediate danger before stopping. It would also help if we ran into unexpected obstructions and used more gas than anticipated.
  • We re-evaluated our route, and decided to stay at smaller towns in between large cities.
  • We stopped at a Walmart on our way and bought a tarp and some bungee cords. Although the plan for our trip included hotel stays, we could make a roadside shelter if needed with those. We also grabbed extra water. Being able to put up an impromptu shelter might make the difference between roughing it for a night in a safe place and having to slog through a panicky crowd just to get to our hotel.
  • We snagged the extra toilet paper roll from our hotel room. Maybe we should have already had one in the car (we had baby wipes) but now we felt more prepared to camp wilderness style, if necessary. Emergency toilet supplies  in the back of your vehicle is a must, especially if you have kids.
  • And just in case we would need to shelter in place immediately when we got home, we caught up on laundry at the hotel. We also stopped and got a few household groceries, in addition to the snacks and food already in the car.

Some of the lessons I took away from this experience are if you’re prepared for one situation, even if you can’t think of every possibility, you are still better off than doing nothing. Flexibility is key. And really you can’t stay home for the rest of your life. Even as a survival mom you still need to plan vacations and times away from home and out of your comfort zone. Whatever happens, just deal with it when it does.

Home alone with the kids — Monica

When rumors of protests in our city began to circulate, my husband was working 9 ½ hours away and wasn’t due to get home for another three days. News reports of other protests having gone terribly wrong added to my uneasiness. Being home alone meant I needed to take full responsibility for our well-being.

As a mom, my mind immediately went to the mundane, yet important details of maintaining a house in the midst of a chaotic event. My washer had been out of commission for a while, so the first thing I did was go to the laundromat to get all the clothes washed at once. Next was making sure the car was filled with gas, and that I had all the basic, perishable groceries needed to get us through for a week and a half. It was a good feeling when I got home that day and knew we could be at home for many days with no need to go out.

This is actually key when you’re expecting an event that might make it more dangerous to leave your home than to stay put. Make sure you have all of life’s essentials right there with you — think of things like baby food, diapers, toilet paper, prescription medications, over the counter meds (here’s a list of suggested OTC meds to have on hand), and so on. The type of things that, when you run out, you need to quickly replenish. That’s what you stock up on!

I called my husband to make sure we were still on the same page as to decisions about when we stay at home, when to pack up the child and animals and head to friends on the edge of the city, and at what point we go to rural acquaintances. If we were unable to communicate, he would know where to find us. I planned several different routes to get to each location and made sure an atlas was still in the car. This is where, again, having very good maps and a GPS can help. A survival manual that focuses only on emergency evacuations, like this one, is a must.

Then I made popcorn and spend the rest of the evening watching Netflix shows.

I learned a few things from this experience:

  • I am better prepared than I thought I might be.
  • Making sure camping gear and stocked backpacks are stored neatly and are easily accessible is worth your time.
  • Having plans for various scenarios meant I could go to bed and sleep well.

Date night — Sarah Anne

It sometimes takes a miracle to have a successful date night out as parents. The schedules of every person involved — wife, husband, kids, babysitter —  all have to align like the planets in the night sky. We finally had one of those nights planned and to top it off, it coincided with a fun event in a nearby city. We were very excited.

Then we saw the news about the possible protests and riots. The city we were planning to go to wasn’t on the list, but I glanced through news sites, Twitter, and Craigslist the two days prior and day of to make sure other people weren’t planning something there. The event we were going to was on the far side of the city closest to us, so we wouldn’t have to drive through downtown.

Just in case we found ourselves unable to reach our destination or unable to get back home quickly, we made sure to have water, some food, good walking shoes, fully charged cell phones, a full tank of gas and an atlas (in case we needed to take some back roads home). We discussed how to effectively use our concealed carry licenses, although that was something neither of us relished. Doing all of this gave us peace of mind and we decided to go ahead and go on our date. We were prepared, and we ended up having fun.

It also helped knowing that our babysitter’s family lives across the street from us, and knows where our shelter area and supplies are located. She also knows where the fire extinguishers are located. For more about preparing a babysitter, read about creating a babysitter folder with vital information.

The overall lessons that were reinforced by preparing for this possible event were:

  • Bring the babysitter on your preparedness team.
  • Know how to check Twitter and Craigslist for news trends.
  • Keep an atlas in the car (and walking shoes).

Anything can happen at any time – with or without warning.  But that’s what being a survival mom is all about – being prepared for anything, wherever you are, and with whatever you have. What unusual situations are you prepared for?

Mom's Guide Civil Unrest

How to Teach Your Kids About War

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How to Teach Your Kids About War via The Survival Mom

I sat in my 6th grade classroom in January 1991, when an announcement was made over the loudspeaker stating the war with Iraq had begun. The classroom was located on a military base in Japan and some of the students’ parents were deployed for the war. Some students sat stunned, some started crying, and a few laughed, not knowing at such a young age how to handle their emotions. Whenever there is war, there are children who have to find a way to deal with the suddenly changed state of the world around them.

(I still question the decision of the school to make that announcement instead of leaving it to the parents, but that is what they thought was best.)

As a military brat and wife, I’ve often been a step closer to the wars our country has been part of than the general population. During Operation Desert Storm, we were stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan, and security was tight. Every sign that could be seen from off the base was covered up. We had to carry our military identification card every we went – even on base. We baked cookies for the troops, and I joined a program where older students tutored younger students who had a parent deployed. My father was in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and survived because he was on the other side of the building that day. The day before, he was in a meeting at the exact place where the plane crashed. I’ve had friends, coworkers, friends’ husbands, and my own husband deploy. A friend of mine married a war widow who had a young child. For me, the wars have always been front and center in my world, not just something to read in the newspaper.

There is a distinct possibility that the current War on Terror will come to our shores, and many believe it already has. Our children may grow up where war is a constant thing, and not just across the oceans but right here on American soil. How can we prepare them to deal with wartime?

Tell them the age-appropriate truth

Children will need to be told what is going on and how it will affect them. If you have children in school, they will probably eventually hear things from other students or friends, so you will want to talk with them first. It would be good to try and think of what questions they may have and formulate your responses before bringing up the subect. However, some questions may come up that you aren’t prepared for. If you need more time to consider your answers, tell them so, and make sure to get back to them. If you have young children, you may want to be careful how much news they see or hear as some pretty horrific events have been happening lately.

Teach them family history

Everyone’s family tree is unique and most children have a built-in curiosity about where they came from. Our own family history is full of men who served their country, including one who was a POW in Germany and another that survived the Bataan Death March and a Japanese prisoner camp. You might have a relative that invented something, published a book, or always won best cookie at the state fair. These stories let children know that people related to them have done worthwhile and interesting things and have survived hard times. How did your family come to America? What did your relatives do during the Great Depression? How did they sacrifice for the country during wartimes?

Teach them country and world history

Knowledge is power. As the saying goes, those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Knowing the history of your own city, county, state, country, and world lets you put current events in perspective. If a war changes the world drastically, those who know history are the ones who will carry those facts to another generation. Knowing history also lets you know how the world got to the point that it is at right now. Watch documentaries, read historical fiction, visit historical sites and take the guided tour, sign up for free online history classes. If your children are learning about a specific area in school/homeschool, bring it alive to them by visiting a local museum that has artifacts from that time period. I never liked history growing up because I just learned it from a textbook. I started becoming interested in European history while living in Germany in high school. Once I was an adult and visited Gettysburg and Washington D.C., I developed an interest in learning U.S. History.

Emphasize faith and family

Your family and your faith should be the center of your world, and making it the center of your children’s world will give them a solid foundation as they go through life. Even if you don’t have a certain faith, you probably have a certain set of standards you try to live by and want your children to live by. Talk about what you believe over the breakfast table. Have children share how they lived it out at the dinner table. Memorize Bible verses or quotes that inspire courage, confidence, and other traits you would like your children to absorb.

Get them involved

During wartimes, there are things that even children can do to feel like they are supporting their country. Supporting troops can be as simple as sending an e-card or as involved as putting together care packages. In 6th grade, I made cookies and in high school, I made fudge and we sent it to the troops for Christmastime. Learning to garden and sew were key contributions during World War II – the skills may be needed again someday.

Give them heroes

There can be heroes in your own family – tell them those stories over and over. The single grandmother who worked three jobs to put her kids through college. The uncle who caught fish and hunted to feed his family during the Great Depression. If you don’t know much about your own family’s history, this is a good time to start asking!

There are also fictional and historical heroes to tell children about. Read them stories upon stories of good versus evil where good triumphs. It gives children hope. If someone else, even a fictional character, has overcome hard times and challenges, they’ll be inspired to believe they can, too. These stories fill all of us with courage and give positive role models.

As you do these things, consider, as a parent, the worst-case scenarios. What things do you want your children to know and have with them if they are separated from you or if you pass away? It’s a hard thing to think about, but it will help you focus on what is important to you and what you want to pass on to your children. Consider a small notebook and/or photo album for their bug-out-bags that has family photos, history or key things you want them to know.

For more help in preparing your children for wartime, visit some of these helpful sites:

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

9/11 Heroes

Navy

American Psychological Association

Red Cross

How to Teach Your Kids About War via The Survival Mom

28 Pieces of Weather Wisdom From the Pioneer Days

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pioneer weather wisdomThis year when I was getting ready to plant my spring garden, I was a little hesitant to plant according to frost date this year. In February, I had seen a local farmer post on Facebook something that sounded to me like pioneer weather wisdom:

February thunder brings a May frost.

It sounded like something out of the Farmer’s Alamanc. We had a thunderstorm on February 2, this year, and while our last frost date is usually around Mother’s Day (May 8), we had a frost on May 16. That frost damaged several crops in the area, and I was glad I had seen that farmer’s post and had waited to plant in my garden.

I saw another saying come true this year as well and this time it was from farmers who had to wait until after the frost and then had a second delay in planting due to rain. When most finally got around to planting, they noticed that at the same time there was a lot of white stuff floating around in the air.

When cottonwood starts to fly, it’s time to plant corn.

Seeing these sayings come true before my eyes made me wonder what other old farming wisdom was out there from pioneer days and even earlier in history. I began noticing other signs in nature, such as that June Bugs were only seen from our porch when it was a warm night. It had to be even warmer for the frogs to show up. I wondered if it might not be a good idea to wait for them to show up at least three nights in a row before trusting my plants to stay outside all night.

Hmmmm….maybe these farmers and the pioneers before them were on to something.

I decided to explore 3 different books of old-time weather wisdom from colonial days through pioneer days:

Pioneer wisdom for planting and weather

People have been planting long before there were apps or the internet to tell you when, where and how to plant in a garden. Planting was done by carefully watching signs in nature, including the weather and the moon. Over time, people began to notice patterns for what worked and what didn’t and those observations turned into catchy sayings that could easily be taught to the next generation and the next.

Many folklore sayings don’t have much to back them up scientifically, but then there are others like the two I saw that do show themselves true in nature, at least sometimes.

As survival moms, it could help to know some folklore in regards to weather and planting in case of a long-term power or Internet outage. A calendar last-frost date could be hard to figure out if you’ve lost track of what day it is exactly. Or, by paying attention to nature, you might be able to avoid a late frost like I did this year. Consider, too, that even with all of today’s technology, weather forecasts are not 100% accurate. Nature has its ways of predicting the weather, too.

Besides the Internet, one of the best sources to find folklore sayings is to get the Old Farmer’s Almanac or one of the books their editors publish. I picked a few up at my local library to look through (after which, I promptly put them on my list of books to buy for my reference shelf).

One of those books was, A Millennium Primer: Timeless Truths and Delightful Diversions by The Old Farmer’s Almanac editors and Tim Clark

A Millennium Primer was written to be a “summary” of the Old Farmer’s Almanacs from 1792 to 1999. The editor wanted it to be like a “suitcase you’ve packed for your journey into the next millennium.” It’s broken down into seven sections covering the human connection, health and food, self-reliance, animals, the sky, time and space and prediction. Here are some of the old sayings I found in the book — some interesting, some accurate, and some never proven to be true!

“When sheep collect and huddle, tomorrow will become a puddle.”

“St. Swithin’s Day (July 15) if thou dost rain, for 40 days it will remain.” (Not proven to be true.)

“Bats flying late in the evening foretell a fine next day.”

“Cows give more milk and the sea more fish when the wind’s from the west.”

“If a fowl roll in the sand, rain is at hand.”

“There’ll be one snow in the coming winter for every fog in August.”

The book also gives advice on using insects as thermometers. Grasshoppers are loudest at 95F, but can’t make noise below 62F. If you hear a house cricket, count how many times he chirps in 14 seconds and add 40 for the temperature where the cricket is. Ants don’t emerge from their dens unless it is 55F or above. Bees cluster outside their hive at 102F and inside at 57F. No noise from insects means it is 40F or below.

There are also tips on predicting the weather by the moon. Researchers are finding there is a correlation between the full moon, cloudiness, rainfall and thunderstorms. The full moon can raise the temperature of the lower four miles of the Earth’s atmosphere by a few hundredths of a degree – enough to affect the weather.

Weather & gardening wisdom from Ben Franklin

The second book I found at the library was Ben Franklin’s Almanac of Wit, Wisdom, and Practical Advice by The Old Farmer’s Almanac editors. Before the Old Farmer’s Almanac, there was Poor Richard’s Almanack, published by Ben Franklin from 1733-1758. It contained tables and weather predictions, along with whatever wisdom Franklin wanted to include. This book contains selections from his almanacs and information on Franklin’s life.

Here are some of the more interesting folklore sayings I found in this book:

”For every thunderstorm in February will be a cold spell in May.” (This is the one my farmer friend had heard!)

“If grass grows in January, it will grow badly the whole year.”

“When oak trees bend with snow in January, good crops my be expected.”

“When the cat in February lies in the sun, she will creep behind the stove again in March.”

“April snow breeds grass.”

“Old-timers in the upland South believe that frost will not occur after the dogwoods have bloomed.”

“If the ash leafs out before the oak, expect a wet season.”

“Frogs singing at dusk indicate fair weather to come.”

“Mist in May and heat in June makes the harvest right soon.”

“There will be as many frosts in June as there are fogs in February.”

“When hornets build their nests high, expect a hot summer.”

“Wet June, dry September.”

“If the wind be hushed with sudden heat, expect heavy rain.”

“When spiderwebs are wet with dew that soon dries, expect a fine day.”

“If the first week in August is unusually warm, the winter will be white and long.”

“Spiderwebs floating at autumn sunset, bring frost that night, on this you may bet.”

“If meadows are green at Christmas, at Easter they will be covered with frost.”

The book is chock full of tips on cooking, gardening, taking care of the house, how to find north without a compass, how to predict a frost using nature and animals. (The wider the black band on a brown wooly caterpillar, the more severe the winter will be.)

The classic American almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a classic, and a new, updated version is available each year. There is also a lot of information on their website. You can visit daily for a bit of advice (some is folklore). There are sections for weather, astronomy, gardening, calendars, food and advice. I think I might start checking my local forecast on their Web site and comparing it to the local news station’s forecast. You can get personalized gardening calendars and search their pest reference library.

I also asked my farmer friend if he could share any more folklore sayings he’s heard from the “old-timers” and pioneers of days gone by. Here is what he shared:

“If cows go in, rain will be short lasting. If they stay out, it’s going to rain a while.”

“You can always tell it’s going to rain if the leaves turn under and the flies bite.”

When referring to planting dates on corn, if you plant late due to weather, you lose a bushel (of yield potential) after the 10th of May. “A bushel per day after the 10th of May” the old saying goes.

After seeing some folklore sayings come true this year, I’m going to be paying more attention to nature when it comes to gardening and weather. I’m planning to buy some Old Farmer’s Almanac books and teach some of the folklore saying to my children as we see them come true. I already taught them about the June Bugs only coming out if the night was warm enough. I plan to take to heart the advice in Ben Franklin’s Almanac of Wit, Wisdom, and Practical Advice, to “… open your mind to the possibilities that exist to understand the world …”

pioneer weather wisdom

The Prepper Family’s Summer Bucket List

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The Prepper Family Summer Bucket List via The Survival Mom

Summer is upon us, and that usually means more time spent together as a family as kids are out of school. Even homeschool moms take a few breaks in the summer. This time of year is a great time to hone your family’s survival skills. I’ve put together a summer bucket list for the prepper family. See how many things your family can check off this summer. Have fun with it and get your family involved!

Food

  • Identify and forage for wild edibles in your yard. (Have any dandelions?)
  • Garden but be sure to grow at least one new-to-your-family plant.
  • Cook a meal over a fire.
  • Give your food storage a once over for expiration dates and damage. Restock to desired supply levels.
  • Have children cook a meal by themselves in the house, with supervision.
  • Have children cook a meal by themselves on the grill. Supervise!
  • Have children cook a meal by themselves over the fire with plenty of adult supervision.
  • Make and eat your own MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat) from food storage (Freeze-dried food is great for this.)
  • Use your personal water filters at a local park.
  • Visit several local farmer’s markets to find local food sources.
  • When you start to get low on groceries, wait an extra day before shopping and eat from what is on hand.
  • Start a compost bin.
  • Put in a rain barrel.
  • Dehydrate a fruit, a vegetable, an herb, and some meat.
  • Can a fruit, vegetable, herb and some meat. Zaycon Foods delivers fresh chicken and other products around the country, making it easy to buy in bulk for a major day of canning.
  • Visit a local u-pick farm.
  • Have a day with zero food waste.
  • Grind wheat and make your own bread from it. (Extra points if you cook it over a fire.)
  • Rotate your water storage.
  • Only cook with cast iron for a week.
  • Sprout seeds

Emergency drills

  • Tornado drill
  • Fire drill (Check the batteries in smoke and CO detectors.)
  • Evacuation drill (Do 1-hour, 30-minute and 15-minute notice evacuation drills.)
  • No power for a full day and night.
  • Only use generator power for 6 hours.
  • “There’s no toilet paper!” (Cloth wipes, anyone?)
  • No running water for a full day and night. (Do not skip bathing or washing dishes!)
  • Minimize water down the drain for a day – reuse dish/bath/pool water in garden or for plants
  • Robbery/home invasion drill (Do several with the intruder coming in different doors/windows.)
  • Spend a day unplugged from electronic devices (no internet connection).

Put your supplies to work

  • Update your emergency binder. (Ask kids what important papers or pictures they might want to put in the binder.)
  • Check clothing and shoe sizes in vehicles, bug-out-bags and tornado/storm shelter.
  • Review your home library.
  • Add money to your cash stash by holding a yard sale.
  • Buy a tarp if you don’t have one, and then brainstorm all they ways they could be useful.
  • Rotate any gas/diesel you have stored and refill right away.
  • Check expiration dates on any bleach/sanitation supplies and restock.
  • Reorganize garden tools.

Learn or improve upon skills

  • Go camping. (Can your family live together for long in one tent? Reorganize the gear when you get home.)
  • Go hiking. (Figure out what weight each family member can comfortably carry in a backpack.)
  • Go fishing. (Try finding your own bait rather than buying any.)
  • Go biking. (Do your children know how to patch a bike tire?)
  • Have children start a fire from scratch.
  • Wash clothes by hand.
  • Go geocaching.
  • Have the kids use a paper map to get from point A to point B. (If you’re ambitious, create your own family Amazing Race.)
  • Build something functional from scratch with wood, a handsaw, nails and a hammer.
  • Make your own bug spray.
  • Make your own sunscreen.
  • Make homemade laundry soap.
  • Hone shooting skills at the range (Make sure to keep ammo stocked up.)
  • Sew something simple without using a sewing machine. (Learn a new stitch if you already know how to sew.)
  • Buy a new piece of cast iron and learn how to season it.
  • Identify 10 local birds.
  • Identify 10 local insects or small animals.
  • Identify at least 10 different trees that grow in your area.
  • Sharpen tools and knives.
  • Earn certifications in first aid and CPR. (Discuss defibrillators and epi pens, too.)
  • Have everyone try out a fire extinguisher.
  • Try starting a fire without a lighter or match.
  • Learn to tie 5 different knots.
  • Plan evacuation routes on a map and then actually drive those routes to become familiar with them.

Practice skills in different scenarios

  • Spend a day living out of your car. (Take notes on what you wish you had.)
  • Walk home from work. Bonus points if you can ably carry your emergency kit/bug out bag.
  • Show the kids how to walk home from school safely.
  • Do some summer school. (If you don’t homeschool, consider it a practice run if you should ever need to.)
  • Play the “What If …” game.
  • Discuss social media safety rules.

Fun and educational activities for your family summer bucket list

  • Go scavenging for supplies at garage sales (Among other things, look for reference books, camping gear, cast iron.)
  • Play board games, so you know the rules before you lose power and those games become a major form of entertainment.
  • Learn new card games. (Is there a deck of cards in your vehicle or bug-out-bag?)
  • Work on a family history tree and talk about family medical history.
  • Learn to play chess.
  • Do craft time using supplies from the recycle bin.
  • Read classic literature.
  • Make paracord bracelets.
  • See how many ways you can use a kiddie pool.
  • Find a local history or reenactment group and attend one of their events. (Get tips from the actors on how life was lived before electricity.)
  • Visit a local history museum or county historical society to see how people grew food by hand in your area.
  • Practice memorization with children — stories, emergency addresses and numbers, directions, songs.
  • Relax and go on a day trip or vacation. Discuss how you would handle some emergency situations en route and at your destination.
  • Write letters. Can your children read and write in cursive? Can they address an envelope and put a stamp in the correct corner?
  • Start learning a foreign language as a family. DuoLingo and Mango Languages are 2 free websites that teach foreign languages. Get their apps on your phones, too!
  • Get to know your neighbors. Take them cookies or host a neighborhood cookout.
  • Perform random acts of kindness.

After you check each item off your list, make sure to talk about what you learned as a family. Take notes on what worked, lessons learned, things to do better next time, and if there is anything to add to your survival supplies. Take pictures and create a photo book of the summer adventures as something you can look back on as a family. Creating a summer bucket list could be the start of a new family tradition. Don’t forget to add your own items to the list.

Want even more ideas for a fun summer?

The Prepper Family's Summer Bucket List via The Survival Mom

9 Reasons Why Every Prepper Should Have a Stash of Alcohol (Even if you don’t drink)

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prepper stash alcoholBottles of wine, beer, vodka and rum aren’t exactly what first comes to mind when preparing for emergencies, but there are several reasons preppers should consider having a stash of alcohol on hand, even if you don’t drink.

For those who do drink, that purpose is obvious. Yet, alcohol also has value and uses that go beyond personal enjoyment. Here are nine reasons why every Survival Mom should consider having a stash of alcohol.

1. Disinfectants in your stash of alcohol

Alcohol that is higher than 35 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), or 70 proof, can disinfect, but not sterilize, wounds and tools. Disinfecting an item eliminates many or all pathogenic microorganisms, except bacterial spores. Sterilization eliminates all forms of microbial life. To disinfect, you’ll have to look at having vodka, brandy, rum, gin or pure vanilla extract on hand. However, if a wound is disinfected with alcohol, it can also kill the good tissue around the wound, so it should be used as a last resort. You could also use this kind of alcohol to wash your hands to disinfect them, and in the absence of other cleaners, you could use them to clean surfaces, cooking tools and dishes. Surgery and childbirth are two scenarios in which medical tools need to be as disinfected as the situation will allow. In a pinch, alcohol could be the best way to minimize the possibility of infections.

2. Medicinal uses

In addition to the medical uses mentioned above, tinctures are created using an alcohol base. Tinctures are herbal remedies where herbs are concentrated in an alcohol and water mixture. For example, a cough suppressant can be made using whiskey, honey and lemon.

Alcohol does not help with hypothermia. You often see in movies and on TV a person who has come in from the cold get offered a stiff drink to help warm them up. They may feel warmer afterward, but ultimately, that drink will serve to lower the person’s core temperature because alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate.

Alcohol can also help calm an upset stomach, temporarily help with tooth pain, and help calm an anxious person. A little bit can help a person fall asleep faster. Poison ivy and bug bites can also be relieved by rubbing some alcohol on the affected area. Alcohol can be a muscle relaxant, too.

3. Barter 

Some people value alcohol more than others and it will fly off the shelves in several emergency scenarios (riots, power outages, impending snowstorms or hurricanes). Having some on hand might give you the upper hand when trading for food or household supplies. Consider stocking up on both large bottles as well as the tiny “airplane” sizes.

INTERESTED IN BARTERING? Barter may not be the simple transaction many preppers envision. Here’s what you need to know about bartering before planning on it becoming your survival solution.

Bottles of highly prized brands of alcohol have also come in handy as bribes. Not recommending this. Just making note of it!

4. Celebrations

Despite the situation or emergency, life will continue – babies will be born, people will marry and funerals will take place. Many of these occasions bring people together to celebrate or remember. Wine or champagne can add to the celebration and help give people a sense of “normalcy,” which can be a powerful element in who thrives during difficult circumstances and who doesn’t.

5. Religious

Some religions use alcohol as part of a religious ceremony or rite. Continuing these traditions can mean a lot to people of those faiths. During Prohibition, one of the only ways for a winery to stay in business was to make wine for religious reasons.

6. Fire and defense

As with wound care, alcohol is not the first choice in sustaining a fire, but it does work if needed. Much care should be used if using alcohol around any kind of fire. Do not pour alcohol on an active fire, but soak something and put it in the kindling/coals before setting the fire.

If you find yourself in a situation where your home or family needs to be defended, you could create a fire bomb using alcohol. Extreme care needs to be taken if alcohol is used in this manner and in no way are we recommending this!

LEARN MORE WITH THIS DIY PROJECT: Make a mini-stove with Altoids in alcohol.

7. Cooking/preservation

There are plenty of recipes that call for wine and other forms of alcohol, but one of the best reasons to have alcohol around is to preserve items from the garden. Soaking herbs or plants in vodka makes extracts, like vanilla, peppermint, and lemon. Fruit can be preserved in alcohol for long-term storage. Ginger and turmeric can be preserved in alcohol, too.

8. Stress relief

Alcohol can help a person relax a bit or “take the edge off.” There will be a lot of stress in most survival situations and having a small vice is one way humans deal with stress. The social aspect of having a drink at the end of a long day is often what helps people deal with stress the most.

9. Everyday emergencies (cooking/gifts)

Sometimes the emergency isn’t dire but is still stressful. Having a few bottles of wine on hand for recipes or for a hostess gift when you’re invited to a dinner party is a good idea. Even if the hosts are non-drinkers, they can still put the bottle to good use.

Tips for storage

Alcohol needs to be stored in a cool, dark place. As a liquid, it can evaporate if the bottle has been opened. The shelf life varies depending on the type of alcohol. Beer and wine will generally last about six months to two years depending on the way it was made. Liquors vary widely, but also tend to break down by the two-year mark. Spirits and moonshines do not expire due to their high alcohol content.

Learn To Make  Your Own Prepper Stash of Alcohol

Another option to having alcohol on hand is learning to make your own. Home beer brewing and winemaking are becoming the new fad hobbies with supply stores showing up in many cities, as well as online. Many of these stores offer classes and will help you on your brewing journey. You can also use a still to make distilled water, spirits and alcohol that can be used for fuel. State laws vary on home brewing and distilling so make sure to check what is allowed where you live.

MAKING HOMEMADE WINE: This is a handy skill and not as difficult as you might think. Your final product may not win the blue ribbon in a wine competition but can still be enjoyed for what it is — a DIY project you can drink!

Preppers with a stash of alcohol can only benefit in the long run. If you’re not sure about how much and exactly what you want to have on hand, start with a variety of small bottles. Make sure to keep them out of the reach of children or possibly hidden or locked up if you have teenagers. It’s an item that can have a multitude of uses and doesn’t cost a whole lot of money.

STOCKING UP TIP: You’ll often see grocery carts filled with bottles of alcohol in the liquor department of your grocery store. Browse through those and, if you aren’t sure where to start, pick up vodka, rum, gin, or whisky, as they have many multiple uses and longer shelf lives.

Want to learn more about prepping?

prepper stash alcohol

 

Learn from My Many Gardening Mistakes

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gardening mistakesGardening is one of the top prepper skills needed for survival. Learning how to grow your own food is not something you want to do after a disaster has happened. I can speak from experience when I say there is a lot to learn and you will make a lot of gardening mistakes. Better to make them now when your world is pretty stable than when you’re just trying to survive day by day following a worst case scenario.

If you count my first year (which I often don’t), this will be my fourth year gardening. In those three years of growing and trying to grow food, I have made a lot of mistakes. I am very glad for each and every one of those mistakes, because otherwise, I would not have found out what I didn’t yet know. Let me share those mistakes with you and maybe you can avoid them!

Year 1 Gardening Mistakes

Where to begin?

  • I planted too much.
  • The bed was too big.
  • I started all the seeds on the same day.
  • There wasn’t enough water.

My first try at gardening was in a fairly large raised garden bed in the corner of our backyard. I planted pumpkins, tomatoes, carrots, green peppers, strawberry plants, peas and some herbs – all by sowing seeds at the same time.

Now I know that each part of the country has a planting zone and there are many charts to tell you when to plant, what to plant, and what to start indoors. As things started growing, I soon realized that the pumpkin vines were going to wind their way through everything. I also couldn’t tell the plants from the weeds. There was so much in the garden that I had to wade through the garden to get to the plants in the middle!

I still had hope even after I realized the garden was a bit crowded – and then a drought hit the area. We tried watering for a few weeks, but our water bill was outrageous. We let the garden go and besides a few strawberries, we got nothing from the garden but lessons to take with us into Year 2.

Year 2 Gardening Mistakes

Again, my mistakes were many:

  1. Some seeds were planted late.
  2. I planted too much, again.
  3. I didn’t check for predators every day.
  4. I wasn’t prepared to succeed.

The next time we tried gardening, we had moved to a different state. My husband built four 8-foot by 4-foot beds and we filled them with dirt. I researched everything we wanted to plant to see when and how we should plant them. I created a timeline so I could check off what we needed to do.

So far, so good.

However, we barely got the seeds in the mail in time to start the tomato seeds inside, which meant the pepper seeds started inside were about a month late. (We did not get a lot of peppers that year.) I had a lot to do and check on during that spring and summer for a first-time gardener (I still don’t count that first year.) I still had young children to tend to, activities to get us to, and vacations to take. Each plant had something different to teach me, but I didn’t have time to learn from all of them.

We didn’t find the hornworms until they had devoured several tomato plants. The Japanese beetles attacked the pumpkin plants severely. We beat them back once we found them with Neem oil, but the damage had been done. We should have checked the plants every day, but we didn’t.

Overall, the garden was a success that year, despite my mistakes. That, in itself, led to another mistake – I wasn’t prepared for success. I knew we’d learn a lot, but I didn’t realize we just might grow a lot. I didn’t have the recipes or equipment on hand to harvest and use everything we grew. I ended up giving a lot away to friends. It was stressful trying to not waste what we grew. I stocked up on mason jars and cookbooks that next winter!

Year 3 Gardening Mistakes

By this time, I had learned a lot, but made new mistakes. This time:

  1. There was too much water.
  2. I didn’t weed enough.
  3. We didn’t know about cross-pollination.
  4. I didn’t save some seeds correctly.
  5. I wasn’t prepared to fail.

Too much of a good thing can be bad. The first year, we didn’t have enough water. This year, we had too much and our tomatoes suffered. Turns out a little bit of mulch would have saved them, but I didn’t know that at the time. The overabundance of water also affected our squash, zucchini, pumpkin and melon plants. Powdery mildew would have been nipped in the bud if we had caught it early, but we went on vacation and it was in full force when we came back. The weeds had also overtaken parts of the garden in the week we were gone. I didn’t mark the location of plants well. (This year, I just might hire a garden sitter in addition to a dog sitter when we leave!)

I knew nothing about pollination. Have you learned about pollination? You should, if you’re going to plant a garden. Some plants are self-pollinators and can go anywhere in the garden. However, others need help from insects and bees to pollinate and produce fruit. If you put two of those plants next to each other, the insects and bees will cross-pollinate them, and you can end up with a squash that looks like a zucchini or a melon that looks like a pumpkin. Honestly! We opened up what looked like a pumpkin and it had a melon smell and taste. We won’t make that mistake again.

We had to buy some pepper plants because when I saved the green pepper seeds from the previous year’s garden, I apparently saved them from immature peppers because hardly any of the seeds I started indoors sprouted. Save seeds from fully mature plants if you want the seeds to germinate.

I was all set for a great harvest in year three with all my canning gear and recipes. I planned for a fully stocked pantry of tomato sauce and salsa. I forgot to think about what we would do if we didn’t have a big harvest – and we didn’t. The only things that flourished that year were onions and jalapenos. I canned plenty of jalapenos, but our salsas and tomato sauces only lasted a few months. .

Year 4 Gardening Mistakes

This growing season has just started and already I’ve made one mistake: I started seeds too early.

I don’t have anything in the ground yet, but I planted our tomato seeds too early indoors. This should easily be remedied by getting some bigger pots as planting time gets closer, but I found out tomato plants like to shoot out long roots and I hope I don’t stunt their growth. I wish I had found that out before I tried getting a jump-start on nature. I’ll be buying pepper plants again this year as I must have harvested seeds from some more immature green pepper plants that really looked mature.

Mistakes are how I’m learning and I expect to make many, many more. Make sure to find some experts to help you along in your gardening journey. I highly recommend Melissa K. Norris, who has a blog, podcasts and a book full of gardening tips and know-how. Also, check out the other gardening articles on The Survival Mom website at her gardening page.

gardening mistakes

Survival Mom DIY: Homemade Sewing Patterns

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DIY sewing patterns-

Sewing is a great skill to know and some people are extremely skilled to the point of artistry. I’ll be honest, though, if you have a needle and some thread, you can eventually figure out how to sew. It may not be something you can sell on Etsy, but you could create simple things with enough time and patience, especially if you could make homemade sewing patterns.

I’m a mostly self-taught seamstress (and I might be going a little far calling myself that), but I can sew pillows, skirts, simple dresses, pajama pants, nightgowns and simple dresses for dolls with my sewing machine. I can patch up clothing and stuffed animals (a very important mom skill). I had one lesson from a friend on how to use my machine and make a skirt and since then, I’ve been on my own.

I’ll make a confession: I don’t really know how to sew with a store-bought pattern. I’m sure I could learn, but I’ve been making my own homemade sewing patterns and it’s a nice skill to have. Imagine being able to make clothing for your growing children, new babies or pregnant women if the stores were not an option.

If you want to try sewing with homemade patterns, you’ll need:

  • Fabric and thread
  • Good scissors
  • Sewing machine (or needle and thread)
  • Pins
  • Butcher paper or blue washable fabric pen
  • Measuring tape
  • Original item to base pattern on

Basic instructions to make homemade sewing patterns

The secret to creating your own pattern is knowing that sewing involves a ½” seam allowance. That means that when you sew two pieces of fabric together the thread is sewn ½” from the edge.

The first step is to take the item you are basing the pattern off of and trace it on butcher paper or on the fabric you are going to use (with the blue pen). You will need to trace it by each piece of fabric that is sewn together, such as tracing the sleeves separately from the shirt (you can do this by tucking in the sleeves when tracing the shirt). If there are exact duplicate pieces of fabric like the front and back of a skirt, you only need to trace one copy.

Either you want to make an exact copy of the item you are sewing or change its size.

If you are doing an exact copy, you will want to add a ½” between the item and where you draw your line wherever you will sew. When I say to put an extra 1/2” wherever you sew, this includes hems, although you may want to do 1” for a hem to give you more room to fold the fabric under. You will not want to add any space for any place the fabric will be continuous. Pajama pants and sleeves have a place where the fabric is traced, but not sewn. You will usually go about this by tracing the continuous part on a folded edge of fabric.

To change an item’s size, you will want to measure how much bigger or smaller you want the item to be and after you add or subtract that amount to the tracing, add ½” allowance for where the fabric will be sewn together.

Pajama pants (elastic waist)

Pajama pants are one of the easiest items to use to learn how to make your own pattern. I have done this for my children and they are easy to adjust. I found a pair that was very comfortable for one of them and traced it. I added some length and width for the older ones and subtracted a little for the youngest. I added ½” on the outside and inside of the pant legs and 1” at the bottom for the hem and 2” at the top to create a pocket for the elastic.

I cut out two pieces based on the pattern, sewed them together, hemmed the bottoms and then folded the top over to create a pocket, leaving an opening for fishing elastic through. Measure the elastic based on a waist measurement and add the ½” allowance to it. Get a big safety pin and pin it on the end of the elastic to easily fish it through the pocket. Then, pin the ends of the elastic together and sew it and then sew the pocket opening closed.

This same technique could be used for a simple skirt with an elastic waist.

Nightgown or simple shirt (sleeves)

A nightgown or simple shirt involves the body of the shirt and the sleeves. For the body of the shirt, you will need to add a ½” seam allowance to the sides and the sleeve holes. Add 1” to the bottom for hemming. For the neckline, you can either add no seam allowance and use bias tape or add 1” and hem it. Bias tape is when you cut cloth on the bias (diagonal) to give the cloth more stretch, like around the neckline. You cut it four times the width you want and fold each side in to the middle twice. You then attach the fabric to the middle of the fold and sew it on.

When it comes to attaching the sleeves, you will want to know how to do a gathering stitch. You sew a stitch along the edge of the fabric where you attach it to the body set at the longest width. Then you can gently pull on the thread at the end and gather the fabric a little bit. This can allow you to attach the sleeve and keep the fabric smooth.

If you need more help to try out this skill, you can also find free basic patterns with descriptions and instructions online. These are different from the patterns you can buy in the store. Many of the online versions will take you step by step and show you how to alter it for a different size.

You can create your own homemade sewing patterns out of anything you have in your house made of fabric. In my house, we have made clothing for dolls, mattresses for doll bunk bed, purses, bags, animal-shaped pillows and different items of clothing. The more you practice creating your own patterns from items you have, the more confident you can get in your sewing abilities and can probably start creating patterns from your own imaginations and drawings to either create things you need that you don’t have or just for fun.

DIY sewing patterns-FB size

Using the ‘Cloud’ in Survival Situations

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Using the 'Cloud' in Survival Situations via The Survival MomEvery survival situation we prepare for is unique. No two house fires – or tornadoes or evacuations or hurricanes or earthquakes – are exactly the same. We should never rule out any tool to help us be prepared, since true survival depends on adaptability and versatility more than any single piece of gear. One cyber tool, called “the cloud,” lends itself well to providing vital information at a moment’s notice, anywhere, 24/7. Using the cloud in survival situations is smart and doesn’t have to be risky.

What exactly is the cloud?

The cloud is actually a tangible thing. It is an off-site storage area for your data. You can connect to the storage area securely over the Internet and then access it anytime through the Internet. There are many companies that offer cloud storage – Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Flickr, Evernote, Dropbox, etc. If you can create your own server, you could create your own “cloud.”

The main benefit to utilizing the cloud for information storage is that your data is not “stuck” on one device, but is accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. Gone are the days of those frustrating moments, “Darn! My resume is on my desktop computer and I’m out of town!”

Before the cloud, most people used FTP to share large files and data across the Internet. Now, it’s as easy as sharing a single link.

It’s possible that you have been using the cloud without realizing it. You probably already use a type of cloud for downloading apps and updates for your phone or laptop. With that, you are accessing files someone else has put on a server. Some people use companies to sync or backup entire computer or phone systems. You can opt to only have certain files sent to that kind of cloud.

The cloud isn’t always secure

The downside to cloud storage is that it cannot be 100 percent secure. Data can be hacked and servers can crash – people have had data lost or stolen. If you’re going to use cloud storage, files should be backed up somewhere else. It’s no fun to lose photos or important data in a hack or crash.

Sensitive files should also be encrypted so there is less of a chance of the information being compromised if the data was stolen. Be careful with names and file data. File data can tell a person where, when, and who made a document.

If you do put any names or phone numbers in cloud storage, use encryption or develop your own code for family and close friends. “Mom” is something everyone knows but “Buzz” could be anyone. Think of childhood nicknames or family references that no one else could possibly know about.

To encrypt files, you want to use a public key encryption. Several companies offer online services or software to encrypt your files, such as Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), BoxCrypter, CloudFogger, and SecretSync. There are also cloud companies that offer encryption as part of its services. Encrypted files need a specific decryption tool with your password to view the files.

There is free software available for encrypting files. Read, “The top 24 free tools for data encryption.”

So, why would a prepper want to put anything out there in the cloud?

Preppers are very security minded, sometimes to the point of paranoia, but you know what they say: It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you! Over the past few years we’ve learned that even our own home appliances, cell phones, and laptop cameras can spy on us. So, why put personal, important information out there where it could be accessed by others?

The main reason to consider and use cloud storage is that we don’t stay home all the time, which is where most, or all, of your information is probably stored. Emergency scenarios of all kinds pop up quickly and unexpectedly, leaving us often to wonder, “If I only had my first aid book with me,” or “Where’s that list of essential oils that helps with stomach aches?”

I’ve found myself at the grocery store, wishing I could remember the ingredients to a family recipe. I’ve watched a severe nose bleed happen right in front of me and tried to remember, “Do I tell them to tilt their head backwards or forwards?”

The answers to those questions and thousands more can be stored in the cloud, accessible from a smartphone, tablet, laptop, even a borrowed or public computer. If you lose power and can’t access your computer, your smart phone could access the files you have in the cloud as long as its battery is charged.

Books, manuals, tips, and recipes can reside in a virtual library, if you think of the cloud as your library. Store reference material in the cloud and access it from anywhere in the world. Who cares if you’ve stored a list of sunburn remedies in the cloud or a list of different ways to start a campfire? By all means, store your kid’s summer reading list, names and addresses of pet-friendly hotels, and checklists for various emergency kits. So much of the information we rely on is anything but classified, and yet without it, life suddenly becomes a little more complicated and unsure.

What to store in the cloud for survival situations?

Consider this: If you are evacuated quickly from your home- fire, flood, terror threat- you will not be able to grab everything from your house. What would you still want access to? Perhaps that information should be stored in the cloud, where it will always be handy.

An earthquake or tornado can easily destroy your home and computer in a matter of seconds. Any files you have in the home would probably be destroyed, too. Having your reference material in the cloud means that information is still there for you. If you find yourself having to evacuate, most hotels have at least one computer, with a printer, available for hotel guests.

Store Recipes

If you are visiting a friend’s house and want to share a recipe, you can go grab it off the cloud. Just set up a file called “Recipes”, store your favorites, and have them available, always. Perhaps add another file, “Solar Cooking Recipes,” or “Off Grid Recipes”.

Store Important Contact Info

Sooner or later, you’ll need the phone number of a handyman, your insurance agent, a good roofing contractor, or your doctor. That information isn’t security sensitive, so why not include it in a Note or Folder labeled, “Contacts.” Unless it includes your bookie’s email and phone, there’s nothing incriminating!

Entertainment & Education

If you’re stuck in traffic or at the airport, you could access something in the cloud to keep the children entertained, such as knock-knock jokes or favorite short stories. You could also store spelling lists, book lists, and links to educational websites.

A Solution to a Bad Memory

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for our small electronics to go missing. If you’ve forgotten important phone numbers, dates, your schedule — it can all be accessed on the cloud using a friend’s cellphone. I use Google Calendar, which I access from many different sources and have connected my husband’s calendar as well.

TIP: If your smartphone is rendered useless and you keep reference material on it, simply go to your computer and access those files via Dropbox, Google Drive, or some other cloud storage and then restore all of it to a new phone.

Small Business Owners

Use the cloud to store employee contact information, names of vendors, schedules, reference materials, tax documents, and even employee time sheets.

Other types of information that aren’t of a sensitive nature:

  • Recipes
  • Manuals
  • Medical information
  • Gardening tips
  • Music
  • Weather information
  • Puzzles
  • Movies
  • Smart prepper tips
  • How-to articles
  • Pet information
  • Weapons manuals
  • Directory of repair companies
  • Maps
  • Craft ideas and instructions
  • Knitting and crochet patterns
  • Reference books
  • Insurance companies contact information
  • Downloadable resources from favorite websites and blogs (Read 16 Tips for Finding Reliable Survival Information on the Internet to learn how to find good sources online.)
  • Service manuals
  • Home remedies
  • Essential oil reference materials
  • Lists and photos of edible plants
  • Homeschool material
  • Canning advice
  • Sewing patterns
  • Children’s growth stages
  • Coloring sheets
  • Jokes
  • E-books
  • Foreign language lessons

I can’t say putting information out there on a cloud is for everyone, but it is something to consider. A situation may arise where it would be to your advantage to access information from anywhere in the world. What you store in the cloud and what files you encrypt is up to you.

If you decide the cloud is not for you, make sure you have files backed up in a drive that you can grab easily if you need to evacuate. Consider storing essential documents on a thumb drive or in a binder in a trusted family or friends’ safe in case you can’t get yours from your own home.

SURVIVAL MOM’S NOTE: I use Evernote constantly for immediately accessible online storage. It allows me to “clip” articles from the Internet and store them in one of my Evernote Notebooks. I have a few favorite websites and can file all clipped articles in separate Notebooks, one for each site. I have a Recipe Notebook, a journal, Goals Notebook, and several more. It’s a great resource.

Using the 'Cloud' in Survival Situations via The Survival Mom

West and Travelers book reviews

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no normal day review
Life goes on – even after an EMP. J. Richardson continues her No Normal Day series with this in mind by exploring two personal tales in books three and four. She starts 15 years after the event that turned the lights out.

The first two books (previously reviewed) of No Normal Day follow normal couple, Jack and Beth, after an EMP turns their world upside down. They have done some preparing but don’t have anything like a Faraday cage or HAM radio. After they gather together family and friends, new and old, they work together to found the new town of Unity.

Fifteen years later, the world is still slowly re-establishing itself. In West, survivors are fending for themselves, building small, tight-knit communities but change is constant. The original founders of Unity have died, leaving four young residents wondering about the old cabin they left in Colorado. Feeling restless, the two young couples prepare themselves as best they can for the long journey from Texas. Even leaving in early spring, they have no idea if they will reach the Colorado cabin before winter sets in and their odds of survival plummet with the temperatures. For that matter, they don’t know if the cabin is still livable, vacant, or even standing.

As they travel, they meet Jeff and his son Kevin. After Jeff’s wife died, the two decided to travel the country on a wagon, delivering mail to people around the country. Travelers is their story. They offer no guarantees that they can actually deliver letters, but they will try their hardest to find the addressee. In the apocalypse, that’s about all you can ask for. This book picks up after the couples from West give them a letter to take home to Unity.

Jeff and Kevin have tended to keep to themselves, not getting involved in any trouble they see along the way whether it’s stray animals or people. Jeff’s priority is keeping himself and his son safe, not helping strangers. When Jeff sees a young woman in dire trouble, he realizes he needs to make an exception to his rule. Emily joins them in their journey as they deliver a few letters and make their way to Unity.

Unity confronts them with the possibility of settling down, but is Jeff ready for it? He still has a few final letters to deliver, and Emily needs to decide if she is staying on the road with him and Kevin or relatively safe in Unity.

These two highly enjoyable stories placed interesting personal stories within the setting of a society recovering from an EMP. There are tips on survival scattered throughout the books and while it shows some of the despair of life without power, it also shows successes and hope. One of the most interesting scenes is in book four when Jeff, Kevin and Emily stumble upon a government compound in Roswell, N.M. The people in the compound are surviving quite well and doing research, but they still aren’t sharing their resources with the rest of mankind, even after 15 years.

I definitely recommend these to anyone who likes dystopian novels that aren’t focused just on how bad life could be. Fair warning: there are enough typos sprinkled through the books to bother a grammar junkie, but not enough to stop me from recommending it.

no normal day review

What’s for dinner? It’s in the can

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food storage cansWant to know when I am most often thankful to have food storage? It’s on those nights when I have trouble figuring out what to have for dinner!

Being a Survival Mom doesn’t mean just being prepared for the big emergencies, but for the every day ones – like having four hungry children to feed.

More often than not, I have a main dish planned, but I need a side dish or two to go with it. For my kids anyway, they’ll need more nourishment than just an entree! When I’ve been desperate in the past for side dish ideas, I’ve looked over what we had on hand, hoping for some inspiration!

One recent night, I knew we were going to have shredded barbecue beef sandwiches. We’ve been having them two to three times a month as I’m trying to work our way through a half cow we bought. I needed a new side or two to keep my family’s taste buds happy. Baked beans and corn came to mind, so I searched for some new recipes on Del Monte’s Web site. (I didn’t have a can of baked beans in the house, so I’d have to make them from “scratch.”) Below is what I tried, along with a few variations that can be made with them. (There was one recipe I didn’t try yet, but it gave me an “aha” moment – using canned fruit in smoothies! My children love smoothies, but we don’t always have the right ingredients on hand. That will change soon.)

These recipes use canned ingredients, along with seasonings and an occasional fresh ingredient or two. Opening a few cans makes the cooking process super easy and painless.

Baked Beans

This baked beans recipe called for pinto beans (canned), diced tomatoes (canned), sautéed onions, brown sugar, mustard, cinnamon and allspice. Dried beans could be used, although that takes a bit of planning and prep work to soak and cook them. Dried onions could be used instead of sautéed onions. Instead of baking, I threw the ingredients in a crock pot on low.

The recipe ended up a bit on the sweet side, so I added some paprika, cumin and jalapenos to make it a little zippier. It was a hit with everyone. I’ll probably cut down on some of the brown sugar next time and add some bacon if we have some on hand, but now I can make baked beans from “scratch” pretty easily.

Zesty Mexican Corn

This easy corn side dish calls for corn, butter, chili powder, cumin and lime juice. The corn could be sautéed in oil instead of butter and lime juice could be substituted with lime essential oil (just a drop or two). I had never cooked corn this way and it added a little crunch to the corn. This was another hit with the family and I wish I had doubled the recipe. Frozen or freeze dried corn could easily be used in place of the canned corn. Onions, green peppers, diced tomatoes or salsa could all be added for extra flavor.

Both of these recipes are very easy to make from food storage and pantry items. They could easily be done on the gas or charcoal grill or even over a fire. If we ever end up facing a long-term power outage, I think my family and I will be grateful to know different options for cooking from our food storage.

It’s in the can

Canned goods are a great part of any food storage pantry. Canned fruits and vegetables can make meals easy when the power goes out and are easy to pack up if you need to leave your home. Make sure to have a hand operated can opener with the cans and in any bug-out bag, though. If you end up in a situation where you have canned food and no can opener, you can try this tip from Survival Life: rub the can top side down on a hard surface like concrete until the seal starts to break.

Canned goods do have expiration dates, but many people believe the food can be good long past that date. Expiration dates are set by food production companies and can just reflect the “peak of freshness.” How can you know canned goods are still okay to eat? Signs that the food inside may not be safe to eat are bulging cans, rusted cans and cans that are leaking. Canned meat may break down more over time and tomato based products can break down cans eventually since they are high-acidic foods. In fact, I’ve heard complaints about canned tomato products than any other canned food.

While canned goods may not always be the absolutely healthiest option, in times of emergency (every day or catastrophic), they can come in handy to feed yourself and your family. Take the time to be creative with the food you store – your future taste buds (and those of your family) will thank you!

food storage cans

December deals bring the year to a close

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52 weeks savings plan December

This is the final month of the 52 Weeks Savings Plan!

The year ends with a month full of celebrations and deals. Remnants of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday may be found at the beginning of the month, which then moves to Hanukkah starting on Dec. 6, Winter Solstice on the 22nd, Christmas (25), Kwanzaa (26) and New Year’s Eve (31). Not to mention holiday festivities, get-togethers and winter weather all month long. Here are some of the things you could find deals on this month:

Grocery deals

There will be deals on feast items for post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas and post-Christmas. Discounts will vary, but you’ll find them both before and after each holiday. You will find the following on sale: Ham, turkey, butter, spices, dried fruit, baking supplies like flour, sugar and yeast, cheese, pie crusts and dough, pies and filling, nuts, cake mixes and frosting, oatmeal and soda. Holiday specialty items like eggnog, cider, gravy, stuffing and boxed potatoes will also be on sale. If you do a lot of baking year-round, stock up on those ingredients, both from scratch ingredients and mixes.

TIP: You’ll almost certainly end up with leftover ham and/or turkey. Read my tips for putting those leftovers to work in creative and delicious ways.

Another food item on sale in December is canned goods, which can help stock up a personal food pantry or the local food pantry to help those in need. You will see sales on soup, canned meat, vegetables and sauces. These are all worth buying for stocking-up purposes as canned foods, when kept in a cool location, have a very long shelf life.

Produce in season for the winter can vary by location. However, citrus fruits, winter squash, kale, chard, mustard greens, collard greens and turnips are in season. Putting nuts and citrus fruit together in a basket can make a great gift.

You will also see deals on champagne as it gets close to the end of the month for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Since champagne has a shelf life of at least 5 years, stock up and cheers!

Household deals

There may still be some Thanksgiving and fall decorations, crafts and table setting items on sale that can be used for other occasions during the year or for next year. There should be deals on disposable baking pans and plastic wrap so you can stock up on that for the kitchen. Foil is a great thing to have on hand for outside cooking. There will also be some deals on cookware and kitchen appliances. Stores know people will be doing a lot of cooking and will try to lure them into the store with those deals.

For electronics, December is a great time to find deals on TVs, computers, cellphones, camcorders, GPS units, and many electronics in general. Anything with a camera or video camera can be very useful when you need to document household inventory for insurance or if there is any damage to your home or property. Computers and tablets are great places to stock up on reference books and PDFs. December is also a great time to stock up on batteries for electronics (put some in the bug out bags, too).

TIP: Stores often try to get rid of showroom models at the end of the year to make room for new inventory. Ask if there are any showroom models available for purchase.

For gifts, a lot of jewelry is on sale in December. You can also find toys, gift sets and board games. Restaurants that have gift cards offer some great deals, too, such as buy a $25 gift card and get a $5 one free. You may also find some deals by visiting local craft fairs. Sometimes, they may offer you items that aren’t necessarily cheaper than a store, but could save you shipping and it supports people in your local economy.

Winter clothes and coats start going on sale in December in a lot of places because people already have their coats set for the season. Consider buying the next size up if you have children or get some extras to stash in vehicles or bug out containers.

If you are considering fixing up your house, this is the month to buy carpeting, flooring and tools. Some tools, such as hammers and shovels, are great to keep in a vehicle for the winter season. Can you really ever have enough tools, and they make great gifts.

Thrift stores often have discounted items over the holidays as they see more things coming into their stores. Many people would rather donate items than sell them during the holidays due to weather and lack of time, and some people are selling off unwanted items via Craigslist or consignment stores in order to raise a little extra cash for their own holiday spending.

Outside the home

Outdoor sports equipment is on sale during winter since it’s out of season. Think your children might join soccer in the summer? Buy the gear now. Pools, pool gear and golf equipment should all have some good discounts. Outdoor patio equipment, including gas grills, are in the same boat. Cooking with a gas grill can be a great backup cooking method for when you face a possible power outage.

Cars, motorcycles and bicycles are also on sale in December. Check out the deals at a local dealership this month if you think you need a new or replacement car. Make sure it can fit everything your family needs in case you ever need to evacuate. Bicycles are another alternative if you had to leave your home and the roads or damaged.

TIP: You may not be thinking “emergency evacuations” right now, but winter is a common time for power outages and devastating storms. Check out my newest book, all about this topic!

If you are in the market for a house, the winter months can create motivated sellers. There is sometimes a drop in people looking for homes during the winter because it’s cold and they would rather not move during the school year. Take advantage and see if you can find someone who has been trying to sell since the summer. Families with children are in a hurry to move and get their kids settled into a new school, so if you are pre-qualified and can move quickly, you may end up in the house of your dreams!

Travel

You can find travel deals in December by thinking of where most people want to go in the summer. Look at beach locations for a great deal. Weddings get cheaper in the fall and winter as most people try to have spring and summer weddings. We personally got a great deal for our honeymoon with a stay at a 5-star resort because it was a few days before Christmas and it was their slow season.

You can sometimes find good airfare prices for travel between Thanksgiving and Dec. 20 because most people stay home between the holidays.

December events

Did you know there are occasional “Leap Seconds” added to the official year? On December 31, 2015, the folks who maintain the official time for the planet will add an extra second to the day.

Some stores and restaurants like to participate in specific special days, so keep an eye out for deals on the following days:

1 – Eat a red apple day

7 – Cotton candy day

8 – Brownie day

9 – Pastry day

13 – Ice cream day

16 – Chocolate-covered anything day

17 – Maple Syrup day

18 – Bake cookies day

19 – Oatmeal muffin day

24 – Chocolate day

25 – Pumpkin pie day

27 – Fruitcake day

Winter tips to help your 52 Weeks Savings Plan

This is also the time of year when food and toy drives kick off. There are many people in need around us. If you find a good deal, it can be a good idea to pass it along to someone who needs it more.

Some family winter activities that don’t cost a lot of money are going to see Christmas lights in different neighborhoods, go on a walk while drinking hot chocolate, have snowman building contest and see what local festivals and tree lighting events are in your area. One year we printed out certificates labeled, “Best Christmas Lights”, “Most Creative Christmas Lights” and “Best Religious Display”, rode our bikes through our neighborhood one night, and awarded those certificates to unsuspecting neighbors!

There is one month left to make deposits in retirement accounts, decide how to spend health savings account money and make donations for a tax write-off.

If you followed the 52 Weeks Savings Plan, you will have $1,378 by the end of the month – congratulations! If you haven’t been able to put that amount away, be proud of what you did save this year and start planning for next year. Saving money can take some planning and determination, but it can be done!

TIP: Make a list of all the presents you plan to give in the next year and keep an eye our all year for possible gifts when there are deals rather than buying something at full price at the last minute. Think of holidays, graduations, weddings, baby showers, teacher thank yous and hostess gifts, along with birthdays and Christmas.

Learn more…

  • Check out my monthly series of past articles, “52 Weeks Savings”, with discounts, bargains, and deals for each month of the year. Here’s a sample month for June’s best bargains.
  • Learn more about the 52 Weeks Savings Challenge here and customize it to your own income and circumstances with these tips.
  • Join Survival Mom’s 52 Weeks Savings Club on Facebook. We’re over 2500 members and going strong!
  • Dave Ramsey has solid advice for taking control of your finances. I recommend his basic book, The Total Money Makeover for an easy-to-follow plan and a quick, motivational read.

All About Water Purification: A Tutorial

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water purificationHaving water on hand is just one part of being prepared. Knowing how to safely store, treat, filter and purify water can keep you alive. To know how much water to have on hand and how to store it, read Water Storage 101. This article reviews how to make sure water is safe to drink. You can get very, very sick from drinking contaminated water and in a survival situation, sickness can quickly become life or death scenario. You need water, but more importantly, you need safe drinking water.

If you have water stored, you may be certain it is safe to drink, but if you’re using other supplies of water from inside or outside of your home (or you want to make extra sure your water storage is safe), you’ll need to filter and purify it. Should you drink the water? It’s important to know for sure.

Treating stored water

Water bottles and water stored from a safe drinking supply (tap water from a municipal plant) should be fine to drink. Other stored water, such as from a well, needs to have bleach added to it to treat it. The Survival Mom recommends using 1/8 teaspoon of bleach with no additives per gallon if the water is clear.

You should keep some unscented bleach on hand for emergencies, but be aware that bleach does have a fairly short shelf life. It starts to break down after six months and needs to be replaced every 12-16 months. Rotate your bleach bottles frequently to ensure you have effective bleach on hand.

Making water potable requires two steps, filtering and purifying. Filtering removes bits of things, like sand and bugs. It removes big particles, not microscopic ones like bacteria. Purifying removes or kills germs and bacteria, although some methods are more effective than others.

Filtering first and then purifying is the best practice for drinking water, in part because it extends the life of your purifier and in part because some purification methods (such as boiling) do absolutely nothing to filter out debris.

Filtering water

Tap water can become contaminated even in non-emergency situations but more commonly in an emergency. In a non-emergency, you will almost certainly find out either from news stories or when you receive a phone call notifying you to boil your water to make it potable. (Potable water can be safely consumed.) In a true emergency, it is safest to treat your water source as likely contaminated until proven otherwise.

You may have to seek water sources inside your home, like the water heater, or outside the home, like a pond or stream. Water from sources that aren’t guaranteed to be safe should be filtered first and then purified. Filtering removes big impurities like leaves, dirt, insects, and sticks. Towels, screens and coffee filters can be used to filter water. Another way to do it if you don’t have those items on hand is to improvise a water filter that lets the water flow through layers of rocks, sand, and charcoal to filter out debris.

Sometimes commercial “filters” are actually purifiers. It is important to do both steps, so make sure you look closely at what the product actually does because you need both. If it is a purifier, then you need to add a filter – unless you enjoy spider legs and leaves in your drinks.

Purifying water

Once water is filtered, there are several ways to purify it. You can boil it, add bleach, use calcium hypochlorite, use UV light, add water purification tablets, or use a commercial device.

Boiling water can be a great way to purify water, but it does have a couple of downsides. First, it can concentrate any chemical contaminants in the water. As water evaporates as steam, it will leave behind liquid water that may contain a more concentrated level of certain contaminants.

Another downside is that it requires fuel and time for the water to come to a full boil. If either is in short supply, boiling won’t be your best bet.

Otherwise, you want to heat the water to 149 degrees for 1 minute to pasteurize it. Pasteurization actually occurs at a lower temperature than boiling, but you’ll need either a thermometer to verify the water temperature or a WAPI, Water Pasteurization Indicator. This inexpensive device is a handy addition to any emergency kit.

Adding bleach to water can also treat it for some pathogens. The American Red Cross actually recommends boiling and using bleach. If you want to add bleach to water that has been boiled, make sure it has been cooled down first. The water should have a slight chlorine smell once bleach  has been added and allowed to sit for at least 30 minutes or so. If you do not smell a bit of chlorine, add another drop or two.

Use this chart for reference when using bleach:

Water amount                      Cloudy Water                         Clear Water

1 quart                                    4 drops bleach                        2 drops bleach

1 gallon                                   16 drops                                   8 drops

5 gallons                                 1 teaspoon                               ½ teaspoon

55 gallons                               4 tablespoons                         2 tablespoons

Calcium hypochlorite has a longer shelf life than bleach but is also trickier to use for purifying  water. You can often find it labeled as pool shock, but make certain it doesn’t have any extra additives. (It needs to be safe to purify water for drinking, not just for swimming in.) The Survival Mom recommends Cal-Shock 65. You can read in-depth about pool shock here. When using pool shock, you make a solution of homemade bleach with a teaspoon of pool shock and 2 gallons of water. (A pool test-kit comes in handy to make sure the right amount is added.) To purify water with the homemade bleach solution, add 1 ¼ teaspoon to 1 gallon of water.

UV light can purify water. The battery powered SteriPen uses UV light to purify small amounts of water. There is also a hand-crank version of the Steripen.

Another option for purifying water is the use of water purification tablets. These are a good short-term method since they contain iodine. They are a good addition to a vehicle or bug-out bag since they are small and light-weight. However, iodine should not be used for more than six weeks and not by pregnant women. As with boiling, it is effective against many pathogens, but not with chemical pollutants.

There are also many commercial water purification devices that you can have on hand. There is the LifeStraw, Katadyn, Berkey, Survival Still, and many others. They can easily be added to any bug-out bag or vehicle as well. Some can be used for large quantities of water while others are designed to be used by one person.

Well considerations

If you have a well for water, you should test it regularly, especially if you haven’t used it for several weeks, if new equipment has been installed, there has been flooding or an earthquake, or it smells, looks or tastes funny. If you have a new well pump installed, the hoses that actually go into the well – in your water – will be laying on the ground before being put down into the well. This means they will potentially be covered in who knows what from the ground. It is extremely important to have a professional (the ones installing your well) treat the water with high doses of chlorine to kill any germs and bacteria.

Your water will not be potable until the chlorine level goes down, so be prepared to use bottled water for drinking. Keep enough bottled water on hand, both in small and large containers, for any time that your well water might become contaminated or your well pump stops functioning.

When you have a new pump installed, well water should be tested again after two weeks to insure it is bacteria-free and safe to drink. Depending on the filters in your home, you may be able to drink it sooner. In our home, we have a sediment filter, a whole-house UV filter, and a reverse osmosis filter for our primary drinking water. We were able to drink the water after the chlorine smell went down (two or three days) but still needed to be certain the water was safe just in case our UV filter failed.

Very few people have whole-house UV filters, but they do add peace of mind for a few hundred dollars. There is no denying it’s an expense, but it kills micro-organisms that filters don’t affect. Three filters may sound like overkill, but once when an earthquake caused our neighbors’ well water to become brown and undrinkable, our multiple filters left us unaware of the problem until we heard them talking about it. It is worth being certain.

Wells can be a great source of water in an emergency, but you need to have a way to get the water up when the power is out. Consider getting a backup system that uses a generator, solar power, or a hand pump. Well pumps actually use quite a bit of power, so check your requirements and the generator capacity carefully.

Swimming pool water

If you have a swimming pool, you may think you have a great source of emergency water, and you do – for anything other than drinking or cooking. Pool water may contain chemicals that act as a laxative and can be toxic over a long period of time. Chlorine-resistant bacteria can be in the water from the bodies of people who have swum in the pool.

Pool water is also a type of water that shouldn’t be purified by boiling, as it will increase the concentration of the chemicals and minerals it contains. If there is no power for the pool’s pump and filter system, it could start to become a breeding ground for insects and algae. Having pool test kits on hand can help you know if the chlorine levels are set right to prevent mosquitoes. The water can be used for laundry, flushing toilets and washing animals.

Be safe when drinking water in emergencies. You need water – clean water – to survive any emergency situation!

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Water Storage 101

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Water Storage 101We all need water. In as little as three days without it, a person can perish. Water is a vital part of being prepared. How much do you really need? How should you store it? How often should you rotate water storage? What can you do at the last minute? Let’s explore what experts say on those topics.

How much water do you need?

The American Red Cross recommends that you store 1 gallon of water per person per day. However, The Survival Mom recommends 2 gallons per person per day. Why? Think over a typical day and what you use water for – drinking, preparing food, washing clothes, washing dishes, taking a shower, brushing teeth, watering plants, filling pets’ water dishes, flushing toilets, making coffee. You could even take a gallon of water around with you for a day and see if that is really enough.

In a survival situation, you will also need water to sanitize and clean if you can’t use a dishwasher or washing machine. There can be a difference between the amount of water you absolutely need to have and the amount of water you need to make life comfortable. Consider, too, that babies and pregnant and nursing mothers often need more water than others. If you live in a hot or dry climate, take that into considerations as well.

After you figure out how much water you want to have on hand per person per day, then you need to decide how many days of water supply you want to have on hand. The basic recommendation is for three days (72 hours), but there are disaster scenarios that will have you wanting to have water on hand for more than three days.

How should you store water?

One of the easiest options is buying bottled water. It will require doing a little bit of math to figure out how many bottles you need, but generally about 8 bottles of water equals one gallon. If there are four people in your family, you’ll need at least 32 bottles of water per day. Cases usually have 24 bottles for a few dollars. For a basic week’s worth of water, you’d need just under 10 cases. Double that if you want 2 gallons a day per person.

If you want to store water in containers, make sure they are food grade containers. They should be thoroughly cleaned before being filled. Two-liter soda bottles are another option after they’ve been cleaned. Milk and juice jugs are not recommended for use because the sugars and milk proteins cannot be completely washed off the containers and can lead to bacterial growth. Glass containers can be used, but are heavy and can break. You can sanitize containers by soaking them for at least 30 seconds in a mixture that is 1 teaspoon bleach in 1 quart of water.

Water stored in containers may need to be treated by adding some bleach before storage.

How often should you rotate?

For water bottles, you can rotate them by the expiration or use-by date. For water you store yourself, rotate the water every six months.

Keep scent-free, dye-free bleach on hand for treating, sanitizing and purifying water. (Basically, you don’t want any additives in the bleach that could end up in your drinking water.) Bleach has a shelf life and starts to break down after six months. It needs replaced every 16 months. Rotate your bleach bottles frequently to ensure you have effective bleach on hand.

Other sources of water

If you haven’t stored up any water and the emergency is happening now, there are still some steps you can take. Start filling containers and bathtubs with water. If you don’t have a Water BOB to hold the water, clean the bathtub first, if at all possible. You can find more water in the hot water heater. Ice cubes can be melted and liquid can be found in canned goods. Do not consume any water or liquid that has a very unusual odor or color.

Potential outside sources of water include rain water, ponds, streams, lakes and springs. Outside sources of water need to be purified before drinking. Depending on your resources, timing, and the contamination of the water, boiling and/or iodine will treat many pathogens.

If the emergency involves contaminated water, you may need to shut off the main water valve to your home (Do you know where it is?). Be sure not to drink any possible contaminated water unless it has been purified, assuming that is possible. In the case of a chemical spill, it may simply be too dangerous to drink the water until the situation has been contained. And children are more susceptible to contaminated water than adults.

Last-minute tips

You don’t spend all your time at home so be sure to store water at work and in your vehicles as well. I always have a case of water in our minivan, and, with little children, it has come in handy for every day life, not just traffic jams and emergencies.

If you end up facing a long-term power outage, you may not have water flowing in your home. The generators that run city water could run out of fuel and well pumps that run on electricity won’t work. Every drop of water will be precious. Consider storing containers to hold water that can be re-used for sanitation, washing dishes and washing clothes. Look into having a rain barrel or storing water in 55-gallon drums so you have a long-term water solution. Water purifiers intended for multiple people to use repeatedly, rather than something like tablets or bleach that will run out far more quickly, are also a good investment.

For more information and details on water storage, visit:

CDC

Ready.gov

FEMA and Red Cross

52 Weeks Savings Plan: November is full of deals

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52 weeks savingsIf you are a bargain shopper, then November is probably your favorite month. The month begins and ends with holiday deals and it features a weekend dedicated to sales – Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday.

November’s main holiday is Thanksgiving (Nov. 26), but also features Election Day (3), Veterans Day (11), Children’s Day (20) and the start of advent (Nov. 29).

Take some time at the beginning of this month to set aside a holiday gift plan and budget. Then, if you see some deals on gifts you want to buy, you can save money.

Grocery and food deals

At the beginning of November, you can stock up on candy for the entire year for cheap as Halloween items go on sale. As stores stock up for the Thanksgiving holidays, you should be able to find deals on turkey, baking supplies (sugar, flour, baker’s chocolate, chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk), pie crusts and ready-made dough, frozen pies, marshmallows, nuts, cheese, butter and turkey. You can also find deals on gravy, stuffing, potato and cranberry mixes .There will be deals both before and after the holiday on these items, so think about stocking up for your Christmas and New Year’s festivities when you find these items on sale. Spices, nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal and soup are also November food deals and these items are great for stocking up on for food storage.

In November, produce in season are: apples, artichokes, arugula, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, clementines, cranberries, garlic, kale, lettuce, onions, pears, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips. Many of these items can be frozen, canned or dehydrated. For the Survival Mom’s tips on long-term food storage here are instructions for doing that.

Thrive Life’s Black Friday Sale

One event that thousands of people look forward to ever  year are the huge savings that Thrive Life offers during their famous Black Friday sale. I’ve seen a preview of their biggest discounts and you won’t want to miss it!

Get to know Thrive Life at this link.

And, if you want to receive an alert and sales flyer with information about this event, just email your request to thrivelife@thesurvivalmom.com, and you won’t miss a thing!

Household items

To go along with the holiday cooking sales, items like aluminum foil, plastic wrap and disposable baking pans and liners should be on sale. Cookware also goes on sale in November. These can be a great item to stock up on for presents.

Halloween costumes, decoration, paper goods and baking sets will be on sale the first few days of the month. Costumes make for great presents for children who like to dress up. Some Halloween items can be used very creatively – read more here. Holiday gift sets and candles are some other gift ideas you can find deals on this month.

You’ll start seeing deals on baby products and toys in November, along with leftover summer shoes and wedding gear. Tools, carpeting and flooring will see discounts as people think about indoor home improvement projects.

Large appliances and kitchen items will be on sale since cooking is a big theme for the upcoming holidays and the stores are hoping to draw you in with sales on those items.

For electronics, camcorders, GPS navigation systems, TVs, DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs are on sale. Camcorders can be great for providing an inventory of your home’s items for insurance purposes (make sure the time/date stamp is correct). DVDs and Blu-Rays can make for great presents if you find great deals.

Outdoor items on sale

November can be a great time to plant trees in some locations and you can find trees, shrubs and bulbs on sale, along with some gardening gear if stores have any left. Outdoor furniture can be on deep discount, too.

Gas and charcoal grills are on sale and are a great way to cook if you lose power. Make sure to keep a propane tank full or have charcoal on hand if you do plan to use that in an emergency situation.

You can find discounts on bicycles, and they are a great way to bug out if your vehicle or the roads are disabled. They are on sale this month. See if you can find bike trailers to help hold supplies to take with you.

Black Friday Deals and Tips

You can’t talk about November without talking about Black Friday. Look for many gift items being marked down the weekend of Black Friday. Some of the main items that you will see every year are video games, movies, TVs, gift sets, clothing, winter gear and kitchen appliances. Stores will often have items that are on a deep discount for certain hours of the day.

It is not smart to go out shopping on Black Friday without a plan. If you do plan to go out, check the ads out online or in the newspaper on Thanksgiving, compare the ads with things you already know you want to buy and make a list of where you want to go. Set a budget and a time constraint. Try not to buy something you don’t need just because it’s a great deal.

Black Friday deals can be great for preparedness supplies on top of household items and gifts. If you take the time to take stock of what you have on hand and what you still need to be prepared for emergencies, you can add those items to your list of things to look for on sale.

If you don’t feel like going out on Black Friday, there is also Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday where you can support local business or shop from home in your pajamas and still find great deals.

November outings

Travel is only going to get more expensive as each day passes now. At some point, if you want to travel over the holidays, you may decide a road trip is more feasible for your budget. Here are 13 Tips to Survive Family Road Trips  and things to think about if you were to get stuck in your car for a while. One big way to save money on a road trip is to pack your own food and stock back up at grocery stores instead of eating at restaurants.

Weddings get cheaper in the fall and winter as most people try to have spring and summer weddings. We personally got a great deal for our honeymoon stay at a 5-star resort because it was a few days before Christmas and it was their slow season.

Fourth graders and their families can benefit from a free pass to any National Park by visiting www.everykidinapark.gov. The pass is good until Aug. 31, 2016.

November events

November is Child Safety Month, National Adoption Awareness Month, National Novel Writing Month and Peanut Butter Lovers Month.

Some stores and restaurants like to participate in specific special days, so keep an eye out for deals on the following days:

Nov. 2 – Deviled Egg Day

Nov. 3 – Sandwich Day

Nov. 7 – Book Lovers Day

Nov. 15 – America Recycles Day

Nov. 17 – Homemade Bread Day

Nov. 19 – Great American Smokeout

Nov. 25 – National Parfait Day

Winter tips

This is also the time of year when food and toy drives kick off. There are many people in need around us. If you find a good deal, it can be a good idea to pass it along to someone who needs it more.

As we move into winter, it’s a good time to do a walk around of your house and look for any repairs that need to be done before it gets too cold. Check on insulation, heating fuel for winter and a furnace tune-up. Consider hanging up hooks for Christmas decorations and Christmas lights (you don’t have to turn them on yet) before the temperatures get bitter cold. There are two months left to make deposits in retirement accounts, decide how to spend health savings account money and make donations for a tax write-off.

 

By the end of November, you should have $1,128 saved if you’re following the 52 Weeks Savings Plan (47 weeks). Don’t get discouraged if you’re not there yet. Putting away anything you have extra is an accomplishment in itself. Compare what you have now to what you have when you got started and be proud! Keep focusing every day on the things you can do and enjoy while keeping your long-term goal in sight.

Take advantage of November’s deals and enjoy summer. Come back next month to see what deals December offers to help you save AND prepare!

Have you talked about death?

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Abt DeathIt may not be a tornado or EMP that creates an end-of-the-world situation for you. It may be a car accident or a heart attack. Death will come to us all, but are you prepared for what you need to do when a loved one dies, especially your spouse? Have you talked about death?

When my husband deployed, talking about death was part of the checklist. It’s called estate planning, but in all essence it is talking about what happens if he were not to come home.

A death of a spouse is a very emotional time. Planning funeral and memorial details can be hard amidst the grief. If you discuss details beforehand, and maybe even have them written down somewhere, you will know what to do and not need to think about those details. You will know your wishes will be honored and you will know what to do for your spouse.

It’s not fun or pleasant to talk about. Humans tend to live like we think we’ll live forever. Discussing it before it happens can make things much easier for the person left behind, though. Here are some tips about what topics to discuss as a couple and some questions to ask.

Do you know what you and your spouse wants if you can’t make medical decisions?

The first step is to talk about what you would want to happen if you ended up on life support or in a coma. Do you want to remain on life support indefinitely or not? Do you want to donate organs? The second step is to either put it in writing with a living will or Do Not Resuscitate order or to designate a medical power of attorney. If you post this on the refrigerator, First Responders and family members can quickly find it in an emergency.

The medical power of attorney can be your spouse, if you are sure he or she would follow your wishes. Copies of the paperwork should be filed with your doctor and medical records, and in a safe place in your home where your spouse can access them.

Do you and your spouse have a will?

Laws vary by state as to what is required for an official will, but even having a will in writing with your signature is better than nothing. Certain states, though, will not honor wills that are not in line with their laws. Your family may follow your wishes, but if there is any contention, it has to be a legal will to be enforced. Make sure to check what is required in your state and check a new state when you move.

Who do you want your assets to go to? Who do you want to appoint to make sure the actions in the will are followed through (executor)? Even though most spouses set up their wills so everything goes to each other, are there heirlooms that you want passed on to certain people? If something were to happen to both of you, who do you want taking care of your children and pets, if you have any? Put wills in a safe place in your home and give a copy to whomever you set up as executor. Let several loved ones know where they can find a copy of your will.

If one of you has children from a previous marriage, that will affect how you divide your assets and life insurance policies. It also makes custody arrangements more difficult.

Do you know what kind of funeral/memorial you and your spouse wants?

Do you want a simple or elaborate funeral? Will it be open to just family or to everyone? Will there be a viewing or wake? If there is a memorial, will it be at a church and which one? What do you want to happen at the graveside? Are there certain songs, poems or verses you want included? Will there be photos or a video at the memorial?

Who will write the obit and what details will it have in it? What photo do you want to go with the obit? Do you want people to donate to a charity in your name? There are a lot of details in the funeral and memorial. For more topics, visit this list of 100 details to think about .

Do you know where you and your spouse want to be buried?

Do you want to be buried, put in a mausoleum, or cremated? If cremated, what do you want done with your ashes? Do you want to be buried together? Are there any religious factors to consider with a cemetery? Is there a family plot and do you want to be buried there? If you grew up somewhere else, do you want to be buried there or where you live now? Does the type of coffin matter? Do you want to be buried with anything or nothing at all? Is there a certain outfit you want to be buried in?

All of these questions should be discussed with your spouse. Funeral costs can even be paid for in advance if you and your spouse know what you want to do and where you want to be buried. This can relieve some of the burden of decisions for those left behind.

Do you have a way to pass on memories of you and your spouse?

Photo albums, scrapbooks, journals, and letters are ways you can pass along family history and memories. Letters written to your spouse and children that are to be opened upon your death can bring comfort to those left behind. Place these in a safe place in your home. Take the time to digitally archive photos and scrapbooks so they can be passed on to more than one person and so you have a backup.

Have all important documents in order.

Having a binder with all important documents can also help you if a spouse dies. You may need his or her birth certificate, any military records, W-2s, deeds, titles, insurance policies, banking information, loan information, stock information, proof of citizenship, etc. Having wills, power of attorneys and funeral wishes in this binder would also be helpful. Keeping family contact information up-to-date and in this binder can also help when you need to inform family members of a death.

Another topic to discuss is passwords, e-mail, and social media accounts. Does your spouse have a way to access all important online accounts, both financial and personal? Do you want your e-mail and social media accounts shut down and can your spouse do that?

Take some time soon to talk to your spouse about death and all that surrounds each. You will both rest easier knowing each other’s wishes and you will be prepared in case tragedy visits your family.

Have you and your spouse talked about your wishes? What other topics should be covered?