15 Survival Adventures Every Prepper Should Read

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survival adventure books

If you’ve been a prepper for very long, no doubt your bookshelf is full of non-fiction survival manuals and recent prepper fiction. All that is well and good, and I do hope my own family survival manual and evacuation book is among your collection, but there are many important lessons to be found in an entirely different genre: non-fiction survival adventures.

These books tell real-life survival narratives that are rich in detail. They grab your attention and hold it while teaching lessons about nature, historical events, and, yes, survival. Some of my favorites are listed below, all linked to their Amazon pages where you can read summaries and reviews. Do you have any similar books to add?






Cold Weather Survival: Survive in a Stranded Car

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survive stranded carI’ve experienced that gut-jolting feeling more than once, and you have too. You turn the key to your car expecting to hear the roar of the engine…and…nothing. Or, you’re cruising along the highway when you notice that the gas pedal isn’t quite working right, and it dawns on you, you’ve run out of gas. Or, a nail in the tire leaves you stranded miles from home.

Even on a pleasant, balmy day, these scenarios are frustrating but on a cold day with freezing temperatures and dangerous driving conditions, they can become deadly.

Dress for the occasion

Any time you’ll be traveling in a vehicle through winter weather, you should first dress for that type of weather. You can always change when you get to your destination or remove a layer or two, but if you are well and truly stuck in snow and ice conditions, that business suit, party dress, fancy shoes will be the death of you. Atlanta drivers were reminded of this fundamental truth a few years ago when snowstorms hit their city and stranded thousands of commuters, many in warm-weather business attire.

Your main challenges will be moisture from precipitation and the cold, so plan for both.

If you can’t dress for the weather, then have these items in a waterproof pack or maybe one of those storage bags that allows you to squeeze all the air out so the bag takes up less room — like these.

  • one pair of wool socks for each person in the family
  • sturdy walking shoes or boots, waterproof if possible. If you have hiking boots but rarely wear them, why not keep them in the trunk of your car or underneath the back seat?
  • a tube of Shoe Goo to seal the exterior of shoes against water (You should have a tube of this in your emergency kit, too.)
  • hand warmers
  • warm, waterproof gloves
  • rugged work gloves (In case you need to change a tire, clear a road, or do some other manual labor in freezing temperatures.)
  • foot warmers
  • knitted wool caps (These are my favorite for keeping my head warm, key to keeping the entire body warm.)
  • rain ponchos with hoods (large “contractors” trash bags are an okay substitute)
  • wool long johns

If you are packing these things for multiple members of the family, make the entire pile easier to organize by separating out each person’s set of clothes/gear and keeping them in separate bags. This way there’s no need to dig through a huge bag of clothes to find one pair of socks.

Keep your feet, hands, and head warm and dry at the very least. You can find more good cold-weather clothing tips here and in my trip report from Iceland.

Stuck in the car, with nowhere to go

If the weather is so bad that you can’t even get out of the car, then you’ll still be needing those warm clothes. The temperature inside your car will quickly drop to just a few degrees warmer than outside. The warm socks, caps, clothes, and hand/foot warmers will help a great deal.

To that, add a small heater that is safe to use inside a vehicle. This portable, small space heater runs on propane and would be a safe choice. Store a couple extra propane containers in your vehicle to insure you have a supply to last a few days, just in case.

Since body heat counts for something, even in very cold weather, you will probably need to run this heater for just a few minutes every hour or so. If your car has plenty of gas, you can turn on your car’s heater every so often as well. Just make sure that the exterior exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with mud or snow. If it is, clear it out completely before turning your car on, otherwise carbon monoxide can build up inside the car, causing another deadly problem worse than being stranded. This carbon monoxide detector for the car looks intriguing, although I haven’t used it personally.

Another heating option is one that uses a couple of cans, a roll of toilet paper, and a bottle or two of alcohol. This DIY emergency heater will require some practice using it. I recommend watching this video to see how the heater is put together, reading the results of actual use in a car, and then reading through the comments on this site to learn from others’ experiences. I file this in the “emergency use only” category, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt to have it put together with a bottle or two of alcohol — just in case.

You probably have some spare blankets around the house, so go ahead and roll those up, store in a space-saver bag and add them to your supplies in the trunk. I’ve kept spare blankets and towels underneath my Tahoe’s back seat for many years, and they come in handy, no matter the weather.

If you have sleeping bags that are rarely use, toss them into the trunk of the car. You might as well store them there as in the garage or attic. Caught in cold weather, they could very possibly save your life.

Along with resources to stay warm, food, water, and a toilet (of all things!) are going to become necessities. This article details how to store water in a vehicle during the winter. It’s important to know that eating snow, while technically is water and life-saving, can also work against you by lowering your core temperature. Granola or energy bars, crackers, beef jerky, lollipops — all do well when stored in cold temperatures. Sugary and salty snacks, though, will increase your thirst, which leads us to the toilet situation.

Most likely, you’ll need to just hop out of the car, do your business, and then hop back in. A child’s training toilet can be stored in the trunk, along with some plastic trash bags and toilet paper.

Finally, think about  how you will wile away the hours before getting rescued and put together a sanity-saving kit. It might contain a charged and loaded mp3 player with earphones, a book you’ve been meaning to read, paper and pen, coloring books and colored pencils for the kids, hard candies, and so on. Your “adventure” may last just an hour or two but you could also be stranded for much longer. If so, you’ll be needing these supplies.

By the way, do stay in or very near your car. Unless you are 100% certain that a well-traveled road or occupied home/building is within a very short, easy walk and the weather allows, you will be found much more quickly if you’re with your vehicle. Exertion that causes a lot of sweating (moisture) will only make it more difficult to stay warm and you’ll become dehydrated.

For a very complete list of what to keep in your car, this printable is ready to download!

Getting help

Obviously, getting stuck in your car is a situation that isn’t desirable! Even if you’re toasty warm, the kids are napping, and you’re listening to your favorite Pandora channel, you want to get home!

A charged cell phone is a necessity, as is an external battery pack. A charged battery pack like this one has saved my bacon on many occasions when my cell phone was nearly dead. With your phone, you can utilize Google maps, emergency scanners, first aid apps, and even this winter survival app. This survival manual app has extensive information at your fingertips.

In a winter landscape, bright colors are easy to spot. Imagine a bright red cardinal against white snow and bare, gray tree branches. If your vehicle is off the main roads, you may need to figure out how to make it more visible for rescue workers or the casual passer-by.

A mylar emergency blanket can be stretched across the top of your car and secured in place with your car doors. Brightly colored clothing can be tied to an antenna. A mirror can be used to flash passing cars or airplanes and honking your horn can attract attention as will flashing your headlights. If you’ve told someone where you are going and when to expect you back home, it won’t be long before an active search will be called and help will be on its way.

survive stranded car winter

Do You Know How to Clean Up a Biological Mess?

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biological messJust before Christmas, my family and I were shopping at a local big box store. Near the dressing rooms, my daughter spotted a young man totally passed out on the carpeted aisle, with a pile of vomit nearby. Since that’s not a normal thing, we immediately alerted a clerk. Being the Survival Mom, I was curious to see this store’s protocol when dealing with a biological mess like this, so I hovered in the distance to watch.

Once the young man was on his way to an emergency room, the clean up protocol consisted of paper towels, a plastic trash bag, and some sort of spray in a bottle. Thankfully, the 2 employees charged with the clean up used plastic gloves. I was surprised that the carpeted section was immediately open to customers, complete with a large wet spot, hopefully sanitized.

I don’t know exactly what type of liquid was in the spray bottle, but the CDC recommends a sanitizing agent specific to vomit and fecal accidents. Stronger than a typical sanitizer, it should be a combination of 1/2 cup bleach to a liter of water.

For businesses, the protocol used by this store’s employeees wasn’t too far off the mark. Official recommendations can vary from county to county and state to state, but most recommend segregating the area so customers don’t track through, possibly spreading germs. Some viruses can become airborne, so a disposable face mask is another recommendation, and some states recommend wearing some sort of cover.

Another common recommendation is to sanitize the area far beyond the original mess. Some germs, such as Norovirus, can spread by air and infect persons dozens of feet away, and, depending on the individual’s health condition, blood could be present as well. Ugh.

Keep in mind, businesses have no idea whatsoever what type of biological mess they’re dealing with, even if the sick person is known to them, so going above and beyond recommended protocol wouldn’t be out of line. After all, every epidemic has a “patient zero”.

Cleaning a biological mess around the house

I had a chance to read Noah’s article, “How to Prep For a Quarantine“, and was reminded of the importance of having the right supplies to deal with biological messes when they occur around the house. Years ago when my young daughter had the Norovirus, it was a horrible mess and I ended up throwing away her favorite pair of pajamas — the diarrhea mess was that bad. Looking back, we were very fortunate that the entire family wasn’t infected with this highly contagious virus.

Over the years, I’ve had to clean up after my own kids as well as their friends whenever unpleasant accidents happened in the house, the car, or anywhere else where I happened to be the responsible adult. Most of the time, these incidents happen, are cleaned up, and there are no further repercussions, but it’s still a good idea to err on the side of caution.

So what should you have on hand to deal when a diarrhea or vomiting episode looks to become something more than just a “one and done” event?

Clean up from beginning to end

First, if you spend a lot of time outside the house or often have a house full of people, you might want to buy a complete clean-up kit and have everything on hand and in one place. A kit like this one contains gloves, absorbent powder, a biohazard waste bag, and a few more items. I’d add a few extras of the consumable items, like the nitrile gloves.

As an extra precaution, I’d also add a simple face mask. A simple vomit or bleeding event isn’t Ebola, but you may remember that that particular virus could be transmitted through any body opening, including nostrils and eyes, which is why Ebola health care workers wore goggles along with their face masks. Face masks are inexpensive and multi-purpose, so adding one or two to your clean-up kit is a simple matter.

At home, these same items will come in handy and not just for biological messes, which is a plus. (If you’re going to buy supplies and gear for any emergency, it’s a very good thing when they can be used for all kinds of emergencies.)

It’s vital that you isolate any potentially contaminated material as quickly as possible. That could mean keeping everyone out of the sick room or barricading a room until you can clean and sanitize the area. Also, be sure to very gentle soak up the blood, vomit, or other mess. Scrubbing at this point will just push the material deeper into the carpet, if that’s where the incident happened.

One of the easiest strategies for the actual clean up is to absorb the mess with paper towels, even if you’ve sworn off paper towels forever. Keep a couple of rolls with your first aid supplies. It’s easy to grab handful after handful, if necessary, and if the particular biological mess contains a virus, easy to put everything in a trash bag, seal, and dispose. If you decide to burn the contaminated paper towels, it will be a quick and easy task.

I’ve been collecting old, white towels for things like this. I keep them in my laundry room and everyone in the family knows where they are. Whenever there’s some sort of emergency, like a flooded toilet or vomit, those are the towels we use. Since they’re already white, I can use bleach when I launder them in the hottest water possible without fear of them being ruined. It’s also no problem if I just trash or burn the contaminated towels.

Using some sort of absorbent material to clean up the mess is a vital first step. You don’t want a pool of blood or other liquid at the bottom of a plastic bag, so make sure everything is first absorbed by paper or cloth towels and then dispose of those in a heavy-duty trash bag. Personally, I like the idea of having trash bags that let everyone around me know that it contains something that could be a health hazard. A box of 50 bright red biohazard bags is less than $12, and I hope to never have to use them all!

Before you just toss that bag, spray down the outside with an antiseptic spray or water/bleach solution, just in case the bag itself was accidentally contaminated. At this point the question is, what to do with the bag now? In an ordinary case of kid vomit or cleaning up after a typical injury with a bit of blood, it’s safe to throw out anything you’ve used in the cleanup. However, in a public health emergency, it will be a different story.

Finish up with your clean up by wiping the area clean one last time with a disinfectant spray like this one. When this is nearly, or completely, dry, spritz it well with a good dose of Stain & Odor Remover. I’ve used this product for years and swear by it.

Most likely a government public health agency will advise you on the disposal of anything that might be contaminated and contagious. In a real emergency, it would be okay to just store the trash bags in an out-of-the-way location until they can be properly disposed of. Be sure to keep them away from the sun, but putting them in a trash can out in the garage or on the patio would be okay. Those plastic bags could rip or be punctured, so if you end up storing them in a safe place temporarily, they should be in either a heavy duty cardboard box, a plastic bin, or something similar.

If the scenario is one of those “end of the world” situations, then burning or burying the waste will be best. That burial pit should be at least 3 feet deep and several feet away from any source of ground water.

Tools of the trade

Here are a few other items to have on hand to clean up biological messes:

In the typical household, these items will probably be used on occasion and not returned to their proper place, leaving you to scramble when it’s time to clean up a big mess. I recommend putting these supplies in a small plastic bin with a lid and then labeling it, “Emergencies Only”. When there really is an emergency, running around and yelling at the kids is not the way to go!

biological mess

Top 10 Food Storage Myths

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food storage myths

The internet is full of websites that give information on survival topics, including food storage. There are dozens and dozens of books that will teach you “the right way” to store food and YouTube videos galore. Most contain valid, trustworthy information, but mixed in with that are a number of food storage myths that many people accept without question.

Here are 10 that I take issue with, and I explain why.

By the way, following Myth #10 are 2 short videos that review these myths.

Myth #1:  You should stock up on lots of wheat.

When I was researching foods typically eaten during the Great Depression, I noticed that many of them included sandwiches of every variety. So it makes sense to stock up on wheat, which, when ground, becomes flour, the main ingredient to every bread recipe.

There are a couple of problems with the focus on wheat in virtually all food storage plans, however. First, since the time of the Great Depression millions of people now have various health issues when they consume wheat. From causing gluten intolerance to celiac disease our hybridized wheat is a whole ‘nother animal that our great-grandparents never consumed.

The second issue is that wheat isn’t the simplest food to prepare, unless you simply cook the wheat berries in water and eat them as a hot cereal or add them to other dishes. In order to make a loaf of bread, you have to grind the wheat, which requires the purchase of at least one grain mill. Electric mills are much easier to use and, within just seconds, you have freshly ground flour. However, you’ll probably want to add a hand-crank mill to have on hand for power outages. All together, 2 mills will end up costing a pretty penny, depending on the brands you purchase.

Then there’s the process of making the bread itself, which is time consuming.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t store wheat, and, in fact, I have several hundred pounds of it myself. The emphasis on wheat as a major component in food storage is what I have a problem with. In retrospect, I wish I had purchased far more rice and less wheat. Rice is incredibly simple to prepare and is very versatile. It, too, has a very long shelf life.

Myth #2: Beans last forever.

While it’s true that beans have a long shelf life, they have been known to become virtually inedible over time. Old-timers have reported using every cooking method imaginable in order to soften the beans. A pressure cooker is one option but, again, some have told me that doesn’t even work!

Another option is to grind the beans and add the powdered beans to various recipes. They will still contain some nutrients and fiber.

Over the years, I’ve stocked up on cans of beans — beans of all kinds. They retain their nutrients in the canning process and are already cooked, so there’s no need to soak, boil, pressure cook, etc. You can always home can dried beans, and if you have beans that have been around for more than 10 years or so, canning them is a super simple process and insures they won’t become inedible.

Myth #3: If they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat it!

Have you ever fallen in love with a recipe that was easy to make, inexpensive, and your family loved it? You probably thought you’d finally found The Dream Recipe. And then you made it a second time, then a third, then a fourth. About the 8th or 9th time, however, you may have discovered that you had developed a mild form of food fatigue. Suddenly, it didn’t taste all that great and your family wasn’t giving it rave reviews anymore.

When it comes to food storage, don’t assume that someone will eat a certain item they currently hate, just because they’re hungry. If you stock up on dozens of #10 cans of Turkey Tetrazzini, sooner or later the family will revolt, no matter how hungry they are.

Myth #4. All I need is lots and lots of canned food.

There’s nothing wrong with canned food. In fact, that’s how I got started with food storage. However, canned food has its limitations. A can of ravioli is a can of ravioli. You can’t exactly transform it into a completely different dish. As well, canned food may have additives that you don’t care to eat and, in the case of my own kids, tastes change over time. I had to eventually give away the last few cans of ravioli and Spaghetti-O’s because my kids suddenly didn’t like them anymore.

Be sure to rotate whatever canned food you have, since age takes a toll on all foods, but, as I’ve discovered, on certain canned items in particular. My experience with old canned tuna hasn’t been all that positive, and certain high-acid foods, such as canned tomato products, are known to have issues with can corrosion. Double check the seams of canned food and look for any sign of bulging, leaks, or rust.

Lightly rusted cans, meaning you can rub the rust off with a cloth or your fingertip, are safe to continue storing. However, when a can is badly rusted, there’s a very good chance that the rust has corroded the can, allowing bacteria to enter. Those cans should be thrown away.

Worried about the “expiration” date on canned food? Well, those dates are set by the food production company and don’t have any bearing on how the food will taste, its nutrients, or safety after that date. If the food was canned correctly and you’ve been storing it in a dry and cool location, theoretically, the food will be safe to consume for years after that stamped date.

Myth #5: I can store my food anywhere that I have extra space.

Yikes! Not if you want to extend its shelf life beyond just a few months! Know the enemies of food storage and do your best to store food in the best conditions possible.

TIP: Learn more about the enemies of food storage: heat, humidity, light, oxygen, pests, and time.

I emphasize home organization and decluttering on this blog, mainly because it frees up space that is currently occupied by things you don’t need or use. Start decluttering and then storing your food in places that are cool, dark, and dry.

Myth #6: My food will last X-number of years because that’s what the food storage company said.

I have purchased a lot of food from very reputable companies over the years: Augason Farms, Thrive Life, Honeyville, and Emergency Essentials. They all do a great job of processing food for storage and then packaging it in containers that will help prolong its shelf life.

However, once the food gets to your house, only you are in control of how that food is stored. Yes, under proper conditions, food can easily have a shelf life of 20 years or more, but when it’s stored in heat, fluctuating temperatures, and isn’t protected from light, oxygen, and pests, and never rotated, it will deteriorate quickly.

NOTE: When food is old, it doesn’t become poisonous or evaporate in its container. Rather, it loses nutrients, flavor, texture, and color. In a word, it becomes unappetizing.

Myth #7: Just-add-hot-water meals are all I need.

There are many companies who make and sell only add-hot-water meals. In general, I’m not a big fan of these. They contain numerous additives that I don’t care for, in some cases the flavors and textures and truly awful, but the main reason why I don’t personally store a lot of these meals is because they get boring.

Try eating pre-made chicken teriyaki every day for 2 weeks, and you’ll see what I mean. Some people don’t require a lot of variety in their food, but most of us tire quickly when we eat the same things over and over.

These meals have a couple of advantages, though. They are lightweight and come in handy during evacuation time and power outages. If you can boil a couple of cups of water over a rocket stove, propane grill, or some other cooking device, then you’ll have a meal in a few minutes.

TIP: Store a few days worth of just-add-water meals with your emergency kits and be ready to grab them for a quick emergency evacuation. Be sure to also pack a spoon or fork for each person and a metal pot for meals that require cooking over a heat source.

However, for a well-balanced food storage pantry, stock up on individual ingredients and fewer just-add-hot-water meals.

Myth #8: I can stock up on a year’s worth and won’t need to worry about food anymore.

That is probably the fantasy of many a prepper. Buy the food, stash it away, and don’t give it a thought until the S hits the fan. There’s a big problem with that plan, however. When everything does hit the fan and it’s just you and all that food:

  • Will you know how to prepare it?
  • Will you have the proper supplies and tools to prepare the food?
  • Did you store enough extra water to rehydrate all those cans of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods?
  • Do you have recipes you’re familiar with, that your family enjoys, and that use whatever you’ve purchased?
  • What if there’s an ingredient a family member is allergic to?
  • Does everyone even like what you’ve purchased?
  • Have any of the containers been damaged? How do you know if you haven’t inspected them and checked them occasionally for bulges and/or pest damage?

If you’ve purchased a pre-packaged food storage supply, the contents of that package were determined by just a small handful of people who do not know your family, your health issues, or other pertinent details. These packages aren’t a bad thing to have on hand. Just don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

Myth #9: Freeze dried foods are too expensive.

Yes, there is a bit of sticker shock initially when you begin to shop online at sites like Thrive Life, Augason Farms, and Emergency Essentials. If you’ve been used to paying a few dollars for a block of cheddar cheese and then see a price of $35 for a can of freeze-dried cheddar, it can be alarming.

However, take a look at how many servings are in each container and consider how much it would cost to either grow or purchase that same food item and preserve it in one way or another, on your own.

The 3 companies I mentioned all have monthly specials on their food and other survival supplies — that’s how I ended up with 2 cases of granola from Emergency Essentials!

Myth #10: This expert’s food storage plan will fit my family.

The very best food storage plan is the one that you have customized yourself. By all means, use advice given by a number of experts. Take a look at online food calculators, but when it’s time to make purchases, buy what suits your family best. What one person thinks is ideal for food storage may leave your kids retching.

Lots of resources to help you with your food storage pantry

Want this info on video? Here you go!

Food Storage Myths, Part 1: Myths 1-5

Food Storage Myths, Part 2: Myths 6-10

Never miss another Survival Mom article or video!

 food storage myths

Back to Basics Bundle: 70 Ebooks, Online Courses, and More!

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Skills and knowledge trump gear and miscellaneous stuff when it comes to survival, and this brand new Back to Basics Bundle will provide you and your family with hours and hours of great information related to many different areas of being prepared.

WHAT IS A BUNDLE? With the popularity of ebooks and online courses, “bundles” have become a hot trend. A bundle is simply a collection of related ebooks, online magazines, e-courses (online classes) and, occasionally, collections of podcasts. You pay a single fee for access to the entire lot and then can download it to as many computers and other electronic devices as you wish.

This Back to Basics Living Bundle is impressive. When I first took a look at the ebooks and contributing authors, it was a “Wow!” moment. There is so much great information in this bundle and best of all, it’s not just for preppers. There’s something for everyone with:

  • 70 ebooks
  • 1-year subscription to Molly Green membership (regularly priced $29 per year)
  • A homeschool planner
  • Gardening coloring book
  • 3-month membership to SchoolHouseTeachers website, with over 300 online courses!
  • 52 week preparedness guide
  • …and my NEW BOOK! “One Second After the Lights Go Out” — full of practical tips for surviving a long-term power outage from the very first second you realize the power’s off and won’t be coming back on for a long time. This book isn’t published anywhere else, yet.

The price is $29.97, which is the best bargain you’ll get all year!

Get instant access as soon as you pay for the bundle!

It sounds amazing, but what if…

The power goes out! What good is an ebook then?

Excellent question! The beauty of ebooks is that they can be stored on multiple electronics, including one or two you might put in a Faraday container. If you have an old cell phone that can hold downloaded pdfs, why not store some of these on that phone and keep it in a Faraday container or Faraday bag? As well, you can print out these ebooks as many times as you like and organize the hard copies in files or binders.

It’s hard for me to download anything with my slow internet speed.

Back 2 Basics has a solution you’ll love. For an additional $25, you’ll receive a flash drive loaded with everything, delivered to your door. This allows you to quickly download the books onto multiple computers and then have the flash drive for long-term storage.

I tend to buy things and never use them!

Boy, can I relate! Even if you only use the free Molly Green membership, that includes dozens more ebooks, 60 digital issues of their gorgeous magazine, planners, printables, beautiful graphics for your computer desktop…it’s a huge, huge bargaiin. Use only these resources and you’ll break even! Read my new book, One Second After the Lights Go Out, and you’ll have more than your money’s worth, plus there are 69 other books and online courses just waiting for you, and they’re yours, permanently!

I prefer using my Kindle instead of reading PDFs on my computer.

Quick answer: follow these online instructions to transfer these ebooks to your Kindle!

I hope you’ll take advantage of this truly fantastic deal. I’ve been an affiliate with Back to Basics for 2 years and this is their best bundle yet! Click HERE to learn more and order today!


Surviving Iceland: My #1 Survival Concern

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surviving iceland

When my family spent 2 weeks in Iceland this past fall, surviving cold weather was my top concern. Coming from Arizona and now Texas, I tend to go overboard when it comes to preparing for cold weather and packing for this trip was no exception. I knew that our first and most important prep was our bodies — packing the right type of shoes and clothing to keep us warm from the skin out.

Start with your skin

No matter what the temperature and weather conditions are, get ready at the skin, or base, layer. My favorite base layer is made of silk — my ancient “silkies” from REI. They’ve been in my dresser drawer for about 30 years and still get the job done. Silk is an excellent fabric for a base layer and when used as long underwear, they’re comfy. I like the fact that the next layer of clothing glides over the silk fabric. The one downside to silk is that it’s best for moderately cold temperatures, as I learned in Iceland. There, I layered my silkies with fleece lined tights and kept pretty warm.

If you opt for a different fabric, consider synthetic fibers or Merino wool. Of the 2, I greatly prefer wool. As I learned with my wool socks, you can wear them again and again and again without much worry about body odor, a feature you won’t find with synthetic fibers or silk. However, Merino wool can be very expensive. I bought my Merino base layer top on clearance at REI, and even then, it was about $50. If you tend to get and stay cold or spend a lot of time in cold weather, it would be a worthy purchase.

Caps, scarves, jackets, and longjohns!

One final consideration with this base layer, or layers, depending on the weather, is your own tendency to be cold or on the hot side. My poor daughter had a tougher time in the chilly Iceland outdoors than I did because she is pretty much permanently cold! In her case, a heavyweight base layer would be best. Just read the labels and look for the words “heavyweight” or a “midweight”, if you’d like something slightly lighter.

I mentioned fleece lined tights and these are a wonder! From the moment I put them on, I knew my world was permanently rocked. Not only did they feel great, but I could wear them under jeans, my silkies, ski pants, or anything else. They even look good worn with a skirt, and, if worn as leggings, they’re suitable for cool weather just about anywhere. No need to hoard them for Arctic blasts!

Not all brands are the same, so try one brand first before buying additional pairs. We started with an and actually prefer those to the Muk-luk brand we purchased later.

Your feet are next

If your base layers are keeping your body warm, socks and shoes are the next most important consideration. If you were to splurge on any one thing for cold weather survival, it would be socks and shoes. You can trudge an awful long way if your feet are warm and comfortable, and you can pick up good quality coats and jackets at second hand stores, but that isn’t nearly so easy when it comes to shoes.

surviving icelandI highly recommend getting waterproof boots, even if you aren’t anticipating being in wet weather. If you buy a great pair of boots or heavy walking shoes, they’ll last for years, if not decades. You never know what weather conditions you’ll encounter in that time, so you might as well plan for protection from wet weather.

When I bought my most recent pair of boots, I knew I was making an investment. I went to 2 different stores, tried on maybe half a dozen different pairs and settled on a pair of KEENs. I love them. Now that I’m back in civilization and far from fjords and glaciers, I still wear them every chance I get. I paid right around $165 for them and expect them to last until I die. Seriously. My daughter’s Vasque boots are as beloved to her.

Shopping for these boots, I asked the salesperson to point out which boots were waterproof and we based our decisions on those. You’ll also need to decide if you want low or high tops. I wanted a little more ankle support, so I went with high tops.

If you already have boots but they aren’t waterproof, pack a tube of multi-purpose Shoe Goo, or spray them with a waterproofing spray. I recommend keeping these in your emergency kit or glove box, since you’ll most likely encounter wet conditions away from home.

Add 2 or 3 pairs of wool blend socks, and you’re set. Personally, that’s my first and only choice. They are soft and cushy, incredibly comfortable, and I can wear them for days without them stinking. That’s pretty remarkable. Smartwool is an excellent brand, but on the expensive side, and as you’re shopping for them, you’ll find some pretty cute vintage designs. Wool blends usually include some spandex, a little nylon, but steer away from blends that include cotton.

Now for the rest of you

If your feed are solidly shod in wool socks and comfortable, waterproof boots, you are well on your way to comfortably endurng chilly, winter weather. Now it’s time for layers of clothing.

Around my house, jeans are #1 for every single season. Right now as I type this, I’m wearing jeans and without looking, I’ll be at least one other family member is, too. For cold weather, though, we had to change our tune. My husband and daughter packed one pair of jeans and wore them with base layers, Propper longjohns for him, but most of the time was spent wearing lighter, quick-dry pants.

surviving icelandThose lightweight pants over our base layers did very well for this particular autumn trip, and on the coldest days and nights, we wore 2 base layers each! The lighter weight pants allowed for freer movement. Since we weren’t in full winter weather yet, we didn’t need anything heavier, but if we did, I’d opt for wool pants and a pair of waterproof pants. Iceland has thousands of waterfalls around the entire island and hiking to them can be a wet adventure. Another popular activity is glacier hiking which, again, brings the opportunity to be cold and wet!

Those wool pants should be maybe one size bigger to allow for some shrinkage as well as the layers you may wear underneath. Here’s some more excellent advice for choosing cold-weather pants.

Surviving Iceland from the waist up!

Looking back, it’s funny that I never tired of gearing up every morning for cold weather. I naturally like chilly days, but growing up in the Southwest and most days wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops, you might think all the layering would grow tiresome, but it didn’t. It was just a part of our day, getting ready to enjoy something new in the gorgeous Iceland countryside.

surviving icelandPrior to our trip, my final investment piece was a water-resistant softshell jacket lined with a very thin fleece. Made by Marmot, it has numerous features that helped me adapt to wet weather and super chilly nights. It even has an inner band that snaps around my hips to prevent cold air from traveling up through the bottom of the jacket. Bright raspberry red insured that I couldn’t get lost from my family, at least not easily!

A softshell jacket is breathable, wick sweat away from your skin, and are comfortable in all kinds of temperatures. My son’s Marmot jacket was pricey but it built to last, even with growth spurts. The fact that it was a bright tomato red helped identify his location on so many occasions. He was entranced with being outside in a gorgeous environment and tended to wander away, down the sides of cliffs, up mountainsides, enjoying some solitude.

surviving iceland

As far as other layers went, we wore combinations of t-shirts (both long sleeve and short sleeve), wool tops, and anything else we happened to have. I knew that our base layers, socks, boots, and jackets would do most of the work in keeping us warm, so we were more casual with our shirts.

Finishing off our daily ensembles were warm gloves, knitted caps and scarves. As a souvenir, I purchased an Icelandic wool scarf and wore it constantly. I was amazed by how warm it kept my neck. This is that exact scarf! Caps kept our heads warm — a necessity, and was the final piece of clothing I put on every day. Since we were sleeping in a camper van, I often went to sleep at night with it on my head! Here’s a pick of the inside of that van. GoCampers was the company we selected, and they were terrific to work with.

surviving iceland

If you can stay warm in Iceland…

…you can stay warm anywhere! If we ever really want a cold weather challenge, we’ll head over there during the winter where icy winds are powerful enough to knock cars off the roads! In fact, on our first night in our camper van, the winds howled so loudly that I was convinced we were in the middle of a hurricane.

surviving icelandThe payoff for all this cold weather preparation? Incomparable beauty. Again and again and again we commented to each other how no photograph could ever capture the beauty that we discovered every mile along the way. On 3 special occasions, we were treated to the indescribable experience of the Northern Lights, once from our airplane flying in to Keflavik. Yes, we got to see endless miles of the lights. What a great memory.

surviving iceland

Life is about making memories with the people you love, and what made this trip so special was not only the beauty and being with family, but the fact that we were equipped and prepared to fully ENJOY the experience and not huddled in front of a tiny space heater!

On to the next adventure…

7 Things To Do Right Now To Get Ready For a Fabulous Summer Garden

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summer gardenHold on to your hat! Spring and it’s warmer cousin, summer, are just around the corner. Yes, even if you’re looking out the window at piles of crystalline, white snow — believe! One day soon, the days will lengthen and your summer garden will become just as real as those freezing temperatures!

Seed companies from companies like Seed Savers, Territorial Seed Company, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds have their catalogs at the ready. Be sure to request them now before supplies run low. Here’s a comprehensive list of seed companies to peruse.

Even before the catalogs arrive, though, there are a number of actions you can take right now to get that summer garden ready before the spring thaw.

1.  Improve your soil, if it needs it.

Marjory Wildcraft of The Grow Network, says that conditioning your soil is one of the first thing any gardener should do. Keep in mind that soil composition can change over time and should be re-evaluated every so often.

Our garden was growing tomatoes non-stop, even throughout the winter, when suddenly everything pretty much died. We learned, later, that our soil had accumulated too much nitrogen and had to back up several steps to make some adjustments. You might need to:

  • Have your soil tested by your local extension office.
  • Mix compost in with the soil you now have.
  • Add amendments, per instructions from extension office or local growers.

This article outlines even more mistakes a backyard gardener can make on her way to developing a healthy, productive garden.

2.  Push your composting into high gear!

Make sure everyone in the family knows what can and cannot be added to compost and place “compost catchers” near the kitchen sink and anywhere else food is prepared. As explained in this article, you really can compost through the winter.

Get the kids busy shredding newspaper and old mail (remove plastic windows in envelopes before shredding). Visit a nearby coffee house and ask for their old coffee grinds. Ask neighbors for grass clippings, piles of old leaves, and vegetable peelings. If it’s too cold outside to venture out to a compost pile, keep a rolling compost bin like this one on the patio, just outside the back door, or in an outbuilding. You can always move it when warmer temperatures arrive.

3.  Research what grows best in your area and microclimate.

If you’re not sure what to plant and when, visit a farmer’s market and talk to the pros or search on the internet for local gardening blogs.

Out of curiosity, I did a search for “Phoenix garden blog” and came up with 28,900,000 results. OK, most of those didn’t have the information I was looking for, but the way I figure it, is that if someone cares enough to write about their gardening efforts, they probably have some pretty good information and tips to share!

Local nurseries (probably not the big box store nurseries) will likely have good advice about what grows best in your climate. Remember that many of us live in micro-climates, and our backyards may have more than one microclimate, which affects what we can grow and when it should be planted and  harvested.

4.  Check your watering system.

Replace any missing or damaged valves or hoses. There’s nothing quite like spending some money on seeds and/or seedlings, amassing a good amount of quality compost, and then coming out one day to discover that your plants are nearly dead from an unexpected heat wave.

This happened to us last June, and it was so disappointing. If your garden depends on a watering system, this is an area that can’t be neglected.

5.  Think about what you like to eat a lot of.

There’s no point whatsoever in planting lima beans if no one, and I mean no one, in the family will eat them! Once you have a list of what you and your family enjoy eating, check with gardening blogs, farmers, local nurseries, and planting calendars and schedule planting dates.

Take time to do your research. You’ll find that some carrots, for example, grow poorly in your soil and climate but there are other varieties that will thrive. I learned that in the Phoenix desert, I needed to grow a variety of carrot that produced short, stubby carrots that loved hot weather and the type of soil in our raised beds.

By the way of a bonus tip, winter is a great time for building and preparing your raised beds. Here are reasons why these are a great way to garden.

6.  If your planting season is still a month or more away, solarize your garden area.

This is a very easy thing to do, and I wish I had done this last month. It’s a simple way to rid your garden area of weeds.

Water your garden area very, very well and cover it with a huge sheet of clear plastic. I’ve seen some gardeners use black plastic, but this site recommends otherwise.

Weight the plastic down around the edges to make sure that it doesn’t fly away, even in a good sized gust. Wait for 4-6 weeks. This allows the weeds to sprout, thinking, “Yaaay! We can begin adding hours of backbreaking work to this poor gardener’s week!” However, the joke is on them because once the seeds have sprouted, they will quickly die, either from the heat beneath the plastic or from being smothered with no air or sunlight.

Some seeds won’t sprout at all but will still die from being overheated.

How lovely to enjoy a gardening season with very few weeds to spoil the fun!

7.  While you’re messing around with your soil and garden area, check for earthworms.

I was pleasantly surprised this week to discover a nice, healthy assortment of worms in our herb garden that I didn’t realize were there.

If your garden area doesn’t seem to have worms, they can be purchased and added to both your garden and your compost pile. As long as your compost bin is in a sheltered area and safe from freezing, those earthworms will do their part in getting the compost ready, and if you live in an area that doesn’t freeze, the worms will be safe in the ground.

summer garden

Updated January 14, 2017.

24 Hour Sale on Preppers University Courses

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preppers universityYou’ll have to act super fast to get in on this flash, 24-hour sale on all Preppers University courses. A New Year brings with it the perfect chance to focus on getting prepared once and for all.

These courses will connect you with preppers just like you from around the country and even around the world. You’ll have chances to network with them weekly and take classes from some of the best known survival and prepping experts in the world. People like Fernando Aguirre (FerFAL), Dr. Arthur T. Bradley, Jim Cobb, and so many more.

However, if you want to focus on prepping and really GET IT DONE, then you don’t have time to dither! Save 30% on the regular class fee of $139 today (January 1) only. Sale ends at midnight, Pacific time.

You can still register for the class later, but will pay an extra $40, and classes begin soon, on January 22.

CLICK HERE to learn more and HERE if you’re ready to register!

Prepare, Don’t Panic: Part 1, Join the 10%

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(A big thank you to Bob Mayne of Today’s Survival podcast for

When I first began researching survival and preparedness, I can’t tell you how many hours were spent in shock and panic.  I read about the “golden hordes” who would soon, very soon, descend upon my suburban home shooting, stealing, and raping, although not in that particular order.  According to some survivalists, we’re approaching a tipping point at which our world will begin to run out of oil, and we’ll be thankful to have two rocks to rub together to create heat.  Our grandparents who lived through the Great Depression will have nothing on us.  There were days I wasn’t so sure I even wanted to survive such scenarios.

Anyone who has known nothing but generations of security is in for a shock once they

In the October issue of Popular Mechanics magazine,

10% panic

80% do nothing

10% act

My popcorn situation.  I panicked.  My little brother, age 6 calmly put a lid on the popcorn.

Listening to Bob’s podcast, the thought occurred to me, my kids can’t afford for me to be part of the 10% that panic or the 80% who do nothing.  We moms do not have the luxury of panicking or breaking down in tears.  Picture that situation.  You and your children are in the middle of an intense emergency.  They are already scared, perhaps even hysterical.  They don’t need a mom who has lost all sense of reason.  You must be the adult in charge.  The options< otherwise< aren”t pretty

So how do you get to a

First, decide that you WILL be in that 10% who takes appropriate action when faced with an emergency or drastic change.

1.  Do your thinking and planning now.

What would I do if we

Communicate with your spouse and family.

2.  Put your plan in writing.  Post it in more than one place.

3.  Review the plan.

4.  Practice the plan.  i.e. emergency evacuation, medical emergency, a sudden intense weather situation

5.  Evaluate.  What worked?  What didn’t?

Your first priority is your family.  Your children will feel reassured when they see you acting decisively and with confidence.

How can you get a grip on your emotions when ?  the almond thing in your brain that fires in a fight or flight.  Begin counting.  That activates the ___ side of your brain and helps that side gain control.

FREE 2017 Prepper Planner!

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prepper plannerPrepping is a lot like dieting and exercising. You start off with great intentions, but after a while, the busyness of life distracts you and you end up falling off the wagon.

Last year I wrote about falling off the prepping wagon in a big way. You can read my store here.

As you may know, I’m affiliated with Preppers University, a new online “university” that offers courses to give preppers at any level motivation and in-depth training to get their homes, their families, and themselves ready for everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

Now, Preppers University has a free 2017 Prepper Planner for anyone who just asks for it! The planner is filled with hundreds of small but meaningful steps that will go a long way towards helping you finally get prepped. If you follow all the hundreds of suggested activities, by the end of the year, you’ll have $300 in emergency savings, have downloaded a dozen free ebooks, and will have completed almost 800 prepping activities!

That’s progress by anyone’s measure!

You can get your own 2017 Prepper Planner at this link. I recommend reading the first articles and then going through the calendar online and downloading all the free ebooks. Store them in somewhere on your computer where you won’t forget where they are. Then, print out the 3 checklists and calendar pages. 

It may be helpful to post each calendar page on the refrigerator or somewhere you’ll be sure to see it each day. The small tasks aren’t difficult, some can be done in just a few minutes, while others will take a few days to finish. Check off each task that you do, so you can pat yourself on the back for all your progress!

You may be like a lot of people and need more than a planner. Maybe you’ve made your best progress toward weight loss and fitness goals when you were part of a group, like Weight Watchers, or had a personal trainer or attended regular exercise classes. Most people make their best progress towards a goal when there’s some accountability. Preppers University classes begin on Sunday, January 22, and may be just what you need to finally, FINALLY!, get ready for emergencies of all kinds.

I’ll be teaching some of the classes and would love to have you join me! In the meantime, enjoy this planner and make preparedness a 2017 New Year’s Resolution!


Top 18 Holiday Bargains for Stocking Up

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The holidays are the perfect time for stocking up! Here are 18 bargains to look for. | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comBeginning in October every year, grocery stores begin prominently displaying all types of food typically used in holiday cooking and baking. Every grocery store I’ve been to in the past couple of months has their holiday bargains right out front and center.

For Survival Moms who want to stock up their food pantry, this is an ideal time to take advantage of the coupons and sales that also come at this time of year. Today I took a look at this week’s grocery ads, and here’s a master list of items you may want to grab before the holiday season ends.

  • Ham and Turkey
    • Both of these can be frozen and/or canned to provide meals well into the New Year. A frozen turkey can remain frozen and still be safe to eat for up to a year. 
    • Stuck with a lot of leftover ham or turkey? Here’s a list of great recipes for turkey and more for ham that will give you something fresh and delicious to make with those leftovers.
  • Fresh oranges
    • Once the orange has been eaten, dry the peels and create your own orange zest for recipes throughout the year. If you end up with more zest than you think you’ll use within 6 months or so, use a Food Saver to vacuum seal the remaining zest in a pouch for longer term storage.
    • Speaking of a vacuum sealer, I highly recommend that you use it for vacuum sealing canning jars filled with foods of all kinds. It really is a must-have for a prepper’s kitchen.
  • Coffee
    • Grocery stores know that coffee is part of holiday entertaining, so you’re going to find lots of coffee brands on sale. Coffee beans, and especially green, unroasted coffee beans, will have the longest shelf life, but you can still repackage both beans and ground coffee in canning jars using the Food Saver jar attachment to suck out all the air/oxygen or seal the coffee in plastic pouches using your vacuum sealer.
    • Coffee is definitely worth stocking up on, but be sure to keep it stored in a cool, dark, and dry location. Even so, it will have its freshest flavor if used within just a couple of months.
  • Nuts
    • Again, this is the season for baking all types of treats and many of my favorite recipes include nuts. You’ll find nuts on sale but keep an eye on prices because they are still generally a higher priced grocery item.
    • If you do find a bargain, store those nuts in a cool, dry, dark location, and, if possible, vacuum pack them using a Food Saver. This will help the nuts stay fresh and stave off their tendency to go rancid.
  • Fresh fruit
    • Depending on where you live, you may find low prices on blueberries, blackberries, pomegranates, pineapple, oranges, and a lot more.
    • Dehydrating fruit is very simple and food dehydrators don’t have to cost a lot of money. I found mine on Craigslist several years ago for $30 and it still works fine. The Excalibur dehydrator is considered top of the line, and maybe if you have Christmas gift money, this might be a good time to buy!
    • You can also freeze fruit and even can it, so stocking up now on fruits that are in season is a very smart thing to do. Just make sure you budget your time so all that yummy stuff won’t rot during an especially busy time of year.
  • Butter
    • Right now my favorite grocery store has a pound of butter for $2.50. That’s the lowest price I’ve seen in a while. Butter can easily be frozen, at one time I had 40 pounds of it in our big freezer!
    • I’ve heard of canning butter but am not convinced it’s the safest thing to do.
  • Alcohol
    • Call me crazy, but it never hurts to have a few bottles of whisky or vodka around. Even if you’re not much of a drinker, vodka can be useful in making tinctures and from what I’ve heard, whiskey has medicinal uses as well. This article explains why preppers should stock up on alcohol.
    • If you’re thinking of stocking up on bottles of alcohol as a product for barter, stick with hard liquor: vodka, gin, tequila, rum, whiskey and brandy, as they can all have indefinite shelf lives.
    • Learn how to make your own wine with instructions from a book like this one
  • Potatoes, both fresh and instant
    • Potatoes can be peeled, sliced, and dehydrated by following these steps.
    • When stored in a very cool location, around 45 to 50 degrees, they can stay fresh for up to 3 months.
    • Instant mashed potatoes come in handy for quick meals. However, they will need to be repackaged for a longer shelf life. Read these instructions. Once repackaged, I highly recommend placing them in the freezer for at least a week in order to kill any microscopic insect eggs that might be present.
    • Here’s a terrific collection of awesome potato recipes.
  • Canned vegetables
    • Store these in a cool location and they can last for more than a year. Do circle the “Best By” date and then open a can every so often to check for color and flavor.
    • You can always drain the veggies and dry them on your dehydrator trays for even longer shelf life.
  • Over-the-Counter meds for coughs and cold symptoms
    • These generally have a shelf life of more than a year.
    • During the winter months, you’ll also find coupons for these for added savings.
  • Batteries
    • Retailers aren’t stupid. They know that for every battery-operated gift purchased, someone is going to need batteries! Keep an eye out for coupons and combine them with store sales.
    • Batteries are among the most useful items you can stock up on, so go crazy when you find a really good deal!
  • Not-just-for-Christmas wrapping paper
    • Who said that white wrapping paper with red polka dots is just for Christmas? When you find wrapping paper that will be perfectly fine throughout the year, buy it!
  • Gravy and gravy mixes
    • There’s nothing like homemade gravy, but there’s also nothing handier than opening a jar of gravy and pouring it over mashed potatoes! A few jars of gravy in the pantry just might save dinner one day soon!
    • Gravy packets are great as a stock-up item. They have very long shelf lives, can be prepared quickly, and can make items as plain as white rice pretty tasty. I recommend a stash of these for a bare-bones food storage plan like this one.
  • Frozen pies
    • Now, you wouldn’t ordinarily think of a pie when it comes to stocking up, but one or two in the freezer can come in handy.
    • Think about any special occasions coming up, potlucks, parties — any even where you might have to make dessert. Now think about how busy you’re going to be this year. A frozen pie looks like a better and better idea, doesn’t it?
  • Baking staples
    • Sugar, flour, baking powder, chocolate chips — you’ll find all these and a lot more on sale. And, all of them can be stored long-term.
    • Flour, in particular, must be repackaged. Read this to learn how.
    • Watch this video to learn how to store things like chocolate chips, shortening, and candy.
  • Snack foods
    • Grocery stores know that serving appetizers and snacks are a part of the holidays. You’ll find things like Triscuits and other crackers on sale, along with pretzels and chips. If you find these at a great price, stock up and plan on portioning them into snack bags for your kids’ lunches.
  • Chex cereals
    • Everybody and their dog is going to be making one variation of Chex mix or another, so why not stock up on several boxes for breakfasts or other recipes?
    • If you want to store Chex or any other cereal for long term, follow the instructions in the video I mentioned above or package the cereal in mylar bags with an oxygen absorber. This package includes both the bags and the absorbers.
  • Canned soups
    • Like most other canned foods, soups can have a long shelf life if stored in a cool location.
    • Buy soup flavors that your family members enjoy and soups that you normally use in recipes.

What other foods that are on sale during the holidays do you stock up on?

12 Days of Christmas: Day 12, Do It All Again Next Year!

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christmas organizationOne of the reasons why I love Christmas is that my home is at its loveliest for one whole month. Over a big window facing the back yard is strung a lush garland of pine entwined with tiny white lights. My two trees (Mom’s, done in all red and gold and the “family” tree with our personalized, handmade and Disney ornaments) fill a living room and family room, respectively, and take my breath away.

All this beauty makes me wish the holidays could last forever, but all too soon, it will be time to take down the lights, trees, decorations, and ornaments and store them until next year. My memory is so faulty, though, how will I remember where everything went? After all, even the hall bathroom received its’ fair share of Christmas decor and my daughter and I put a lot of thought into all the little holiday touches we add here and there around the house. Christmas organization isn’t something I can ignore!

At my age, my memory isn’t as good as my forgettery, so to help it along, I take a series of photos to remind myself where everything goes. A quick shot of the hall bathroom, one of the dining room table, another of the kitchen island, the outside lights, and on and on will be a lasting, photographic record so that next year I won’t be standing there with decorations in hand saying, “Now where does this thing go?”  This is an easy task to delegate to your kids, by the way, and since you’ll probably have the camera out anway, Christmas Day is a good day to get ‘er done.

Once your photography session is finished, you can store everything on your computer in a file, “Christmas decor 2016” or, better yet, store them on a CD in case your computer crashes.  I prefer having the photos printed and placed in a small photo album, which gets stored in one of the holiday bins. I’ve noticed those little photo albums become great memories, as we’ve moved from house to house over the years.

Take this idea one step farther and create a Christmas 2017 photo album that includes all your photos from the season. You’ll have pages and pages of fun memories interspersed with practical reminders of what you want to decorate, and how, next Christmas.

Other ways of getting ready for next Christmas 11 months early are:

  • Clearly label all Christmas bins, boxes, and bags with their contents. I recommend one that prints labels in large fonts, like this one.
  • Color coding is your friend. Just this morning, my husband was rummaging around our bins looking for outside lights, which are all packed in bright blue plastic bins. Color coordinating at its finest!
  • Ward off damage by heat, humidity, and pests by storing your decorations accordingly. Our bins of Christmas lights did just fine in our Phoenix attic but our collection of Disney ball ornaments were damaged by heat over the years.
  • If your ornament collection includes keepsakes, you really want to protect those. Store them in their original packaging or wrap them in tissue and store in a partitioned box like this one.
  • You might be surprised how far Christmas decor storage has come. Just a quick look around a store like Target or on Amazon will turn up Christmas tree storage bags, Christmas wrapping paper storage tube, a holiday wreath storage bag, and a bag that contains reels to store your strands of Christmas lights. All these come in bright red, which will help you identify your Christmas supplies next year.

One of the secrets to a relaxing holiday season is getting up all your decorations, including the tree, early in the month. Knowing ahead of time where everything goes makes that job a piece of (fruit)cake!  With the photos you took this year, your kids can decorate the house next year, and you can relax! What a concept, and you deserve it!

christmas organization


12 Days of Christmas: Day 11, Is That All There Is?

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12 Days of Christmas Day 11 Is That All There Is via The Survival Mom

Christmas never seems as big and grand as it does when you’re a child. For weeks prior to the big day, their wide eyes see lights go up and they watch a thousand or so TV commercials advertising the latest and greatest “must have” toys.  Anticipation grows and grows, and it’s really amazing their little bodies can contain it all!

Once the 26th arrives and all the presents have been opened and the relatives have gone home, there’s a natural feeling of a let down. “Is that all there is?”

Enter: after Christmas surprises!

I love having one last holiday surprise for my kids in the form of a fun Christmas outing that takes place a few days after Christmas. One year it was attending The Nutcracker. Once we drove up north to play in the snow and anther year, we drove over to Disneyland for a quick trip to catch their spectacular holiday displays. Whatever it is, it’s fun for the entire family to have one last “something” to look forward to, even a pre-planned family game and pizza night.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, just something special enough to look forward to.

After the flurry, focus on friends

If you can, grab your calendar right now and schedule 1 or 2 simple get-togethers with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and any other group you’re a part of, post-Christmas. By “simple”, I mean, no stressing over the house looking “perfect”. If your friends come over to critique your home, you seriously need to get new friends. Don’t stress over the menu, either. It’s the conversations, the laughs, the shared memories and building of bonds that will be remembered, not that your party was catered by Chef Frou-Frou.

Very simple menu ideas?

  • DIY sandwiches, burgers, or hot dogs
  • Baked potato bar
  • Soup or chili with salad and bread
  • A big pot of spaghetti or baked rigatoni
  • Pizza from the cheapest place in town
  • Frozen lasagna (Don’t judge!)

For entertainment? How about…nothing! Nothing but talk with some music playing in the background. If the weather is cool, a fire in the fireplace cozies up the house and even a couple lighted candles add atmosphere. Your house is already decorated and is at its prettiest.

Have kids? Turn off the lights and let them play “Midnight” Hide and Seek. Adults can either sit in the dark or move to a lighted area somewhere else in the house. Card games and board games, allow for conversation — TV and video games do not! I recommend arranging an activity for the kids that won’t require a lot of supervision, or maybe pay a teenager to babysit the kids right there in your home as a way to diminish interruptions.

This year, my family fell in love with the dice game, Tenzi. It’s suitable for players of all levels and combines a very simple concept (tossing dice) with lots of competition and racing against time. I highly recommend it!

I probably don’t need to remind you, but banish all political talk for the night. Even if you’re among 100% likeminded people, you don’t need the stress or elevated blood pressure!

Whatever you plan for your post-Christmas event, don’t keep this a secret. Anticipation is part of the fun, and I always let my kids know ahead of time about our plans. How could you extend your Christmas just a wee bit longer this year?

after Christmas surprises

12 Days of Christmas: Day 10, Jesus is the Reason

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12 Days of Christmas Day 10 Jesus is the Reason via The Survival Mom

Beneath all the layers of Christmas, the lights, the gifts, the hustle and bustle and Silver Bells, lies the true meaning of Christmas: God’s greatest gift to humanity, his own Son.  My 12 Days of Christmas series wouldn’t be complete without a reminder that Christmas, at its’ most elemental, is about Jesus.  Somehow, bringing the focus back to Him puts all the other folderol in perspective.  Christmas is about a very simple event, the birth of a Savior.

As a parent, one of my goals for my family at this time of year is keeping a balance between the true meaning of Christmas and the highly marketed, secular version.  In order for that to happen, I have to purposefully plan events that make it so. The whirlwind of commercialism that surrounds us, is designed to keep us in a month-long sales funnel, running from one store or shopping website to the next.

What are some purposeful activities you can schedule to escape this trap?

When my kids were younger, we would use traditional Christmas carols for their daily copywork in order to learn the lyrics and provide handwriting practice at the same time.  I had become pretty disgusted that they knew the words to, “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree,” but had never even heard, ‘”O Little Town of Bethlehem”! You could do the same with Bible verses that tell the story of Jesus.

Isaiah 9:6, would be a good starting point:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

When the kids were younger, we baked a small birthday cake for Jesus, lit a candle, and sang “Happy Birthday”.  Every year we attend our church’s Christmas Eve candlelight service. We had to take the candle away from my daughter a few years back when she nearly caught my husband’s sweater on fire, but even at four years old, the sight of the darkened church filled with candlelight and a chorus of, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” took her breath away.

Fewer and fewer of us subscribe to the newspaper anymore, but that would be a very good source to learn about all the Christmas musicals and other programs in your community. Many churches have Facebook pages, and it wouldn’t take long to browse through a few of them, even if just to learn the dates and times of their Christmas Eve services.

On Day 2 of this series, I encouraged you to spend time this season reading aloud holiday stories and having a basket of books for the kids to enjoy. Well, add to that list of mostly secular books, books by Christian authors. Here are a few suggestions:

A family read-aloud, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is a great way to share the real story of Christmas with lots of humor. There’s an old made-for-TV movie of the book, starring Loretta Swit, too.

What I love about bringing the focus back to the birth of Jesus is its’ simplicity.  A carol, a candle, a few verses from the second chapter in the book of Luke all add up to a beautifully quiet moment filled with meaning and reflection on what is most important.

12 Days of Christmas Day 10 Jesus is the Reason via The Survival Mom

When You Give This Christmas, It’s Easy to Give Back, Too!

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For too long, this blessed holiday season has been focused primarily on spending money. (If you don’t believe me, listen to my podcast, “The Parable of Fall Decor & Prepping“.) We spend money to decorate our homes, inside and out, spend it on new clothes for holiday photos, over-spend on gifts, and then there’s the expense of traveling to see relatives or hosting them. It’s not unusual for families to spend a couple thousand dollars or more between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But what if your spending was also a way to give back? What if some of your purchases benefited others in a way that went beyond dollars and cents?

Radko Christmas ornament from the MD Anderson Children’s Art Project.

One group that does that is The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Children’s Art Project that provides therapy through art classes. A cancer diagnosis is life-altering. My brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin Disease when he was young and its impact lasted a lifetime. As a way to help children cope with the fear, the pain, and spending long periods of time away from home and friends, the Children’s Art Project provides not only a distraction but a means for children to express emotions and reduce stress.

The Children’s Art Project takes the artwork of many children and features it on products, such as holiday and note cards, Radko ornaments, kitchen accessories, mugs, umbrellas, scarves, ties, and tote bags. When these are purchased, the proceeds return to MD Anderson to fund additional art classes, as well as camps and support groups.

Ksenia, now 16, traveled from her native Russia to Houston for cancer treatment at MD Anderson. While she was there, The Children’s Art Project classes gave her an outlet to illustrate small little worlds that are often overlooked in today’s busy world. You can see a few of her designs in this photo.

There are many similar gift ideas you’ll discover over the holidays that return a portion of the proceeds to organizations that care for the homeless, abused women and children, animal shelters, and veterans. Keep an eye out for opportunities to make those purchases as gifts, either to others or yourself. While you’re at it, be sure to tell your kids and grandkids the story behind the purchase. It’s a great way to help them develop empathy and the desire to help others.

Be sure to check out more from the Children’s Art Project and get 20% off by using the coupons code ESB20 at checkout!

childrens art project

This content was sponsored by MD Anderson Cancer Center. I was given samples of products and compensated for my time and research.


The 12 Days of Christmas: Day 9, Our Favorite Things

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creative Christmas gift

I was never an avid Oprah fan, but every year I looked forward to her holiday episode, “Oprah’s Favorite Things.”  If you haven’t seen one of these episodes, they were pretty spectacular.  Oprah would present about a dozen or so products that she fell in love with that particular year.  She raved about it, would sometimes interviews the inventor or designer, and then with a big fanfare, Oprah employees walked in with that particular gift for everyone in the audience.  You couldn’t help but wish you were sitting there!

Even now that her show is over, she is still showcasing her favorite things on Amazon. You can see them all here.

Several years ago, I decided to replicate this concept. It’s so much fun to put together this budget-friendly gift. Throughout the year, I pay attention to anything our family especially enjoys and then put all those items together in a collection of “Our Family’s Favorite Things.” It’s a fun process because it brings back so many great memories of the year gone by. Sometimes these things are favorite foods we’ve discovered, a gift card to a favorite restaurant, photos of some of your family’s favorite memories for the year, a favorite CD or DVD or a product you’ve fallen in love with.

Past boxes from my family have included:

  • A box of Kodiak Cakes mix
  • Patriots by James Wesley Rawles
  • Photos of my kids on their sports teams
  • Waterproof matches.  Sounds silly, but the kids and I tested them, and they really work! Most people have heard of them but have never actully used them.
  • A pillowcase sewn by my daughter.  She learned how to sew one year and these were her contribution to the basket.
  • Gift cards to a bowling alley (We re-discovered this fun sport just recently.)
  • Half-pound of See’s California Brittle
  • A copy of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.  Our family has loved the entire Percy Jackson series and I ended up reading aloud all 5 books.
  • Recipes for two favorite main dishes I discovered this year
  • Seasoning mixes
  • A favorite nail polish color or,
  • A favorite essential oil
  • Knork flatware. We’ll never use another brand. I’ve even purchased a set for my daughter when she someday moves out. Get on their mailing list and you’ll receive notices of really good discounts during the year.
  • Key West salted caramels made in a tiny candy shop we discovered.
  • Daim candy, another sweet indulgence we purchased in Iceland
  • Tiny bottles of local wine and liquor from travel destinations
  • Boxes of Texas-shaped crackers, now that we live in Texas
  • A CD of the songs we fell in love with during the year

Get the idea?  This can be a whole family project with each person contributing and there’s no limit when it comes to creativity.  The gifts can be handmade or homemade and don’t have to cost a dime, and if you’ll be mailing this across the miles, it’s possible to put everything in a flat-rate envelope. Plus, deciding what to include brings back lots of fond memories.

There’s still time to put this together.  It might be the best gift your family has given!

creative gift idea

12 Days of Christmas: Day 8, Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

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peaceful Christmas

The stocking are hung by the chimney with care.

The tree is adorned with ornaments, tinsel, and lights.

The house smells of warm, home-baked goodies.

As Survival Moms, we spend a lot of time creating the Christmas, or Hanukkah, of our children’s dreams and our own. It’s possible, though, for the beauty of the holidays to pass us by, and too often, it does.  This year, don’t let that happen. Purposefully, set aside a block of time to enjoy all you’ve done and include at least one thing that will fill your heart with the spirit of the season. A peaceful Christmas doesn’t have to be at odds with one that is filled with fun activities.

Ignore the pile of laundry for just a few minutes.  The dishes in the sink can wait, or better yet, be delegated to one of the kids.  Turn off all the lights tonight and enjoy some quiet moments in front of the Christmas tree. You’ve done so much to create holiday magic that it only seems fair that some of the magic should be yours!

What will make this holiday time special and memorable for you?  A phone call to an old friend?  Lunch or dinner at a special restaurant or continuing a generations-old tradition with your own kids or grandkids?  Schedule those special moments on your calendar and enjoy counting down the moments or days until they arrive.  Who said Christmas giddiness is just for kids?

One more thing, Mom! You know your loved ones and close friends are going to ask, “What do you want for Christmas?” It’s a sincere question and you can alleviate a lot of their stress by having a few suggestions. A weekly date with hubby? A Vera Bradley throw? Something shiny from James Avery? A mother-daughter night out? It’s not self-centered or greedy to actually tell someone when they ask “The Gift Question”!

peaceful Christmas

Survival Mom’s Holiday Shopping Guide

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survival mom giftsThis year, my list of recommended holiday gifts is quite a collection. A bit of an odd lot, if I say so myself. However, I’ve used every single item on the list and have provided brand names and links so you can track them down yourself. There is, truly, something here for everyone.

SilverFire Survivor Rocket Stove

I’ve used other brands of rocket stoves and even made one by hand, but this one is the best. It’s highly efficient, using only small amounts of dry biomass and produces very little char. Rather than chunks of charred wood, it produces only a fine ash. Heavy-duty, it’s something you can rely on as a long-term investment. I’ve met with the inventor, Todd Albi, and he knows more about heat and cooking than most everyone else on the planet. A few companies have copied his design but haven’t come close to the efficiency of the Survivor Rocket Stove.  He has also invented the Dragon Pot…http://www.silverfire.us/stoves-backpack-stove-fixed-chimney-gasifier-rocke

The Dragon Pot

In a former life, I was quite the expert when it came to cookware. I tested multiple types and even sold high end cookware. When I first tried the Dragon Pot, though, I wasn’t prepared for a pot that heated up so quickly, easily faster than my non-stick, stainless steel, and cast iron pots and pans. I love this pot and use it every time I cook a pot of soup, beans, or need to boil water quickly. The one caveat I would mention is that the entire pot, including the handles, gets very hot, very fast, so be sure to have potholders handy. This page gives an extensive explanation for the design and functionality of this versatile pot. Shipping is included in the price of the stove when you order it from SurvivalMomStore.com


Pelican LED flashlight

I own many, many! flashlights, but when we were in Iceland this fall, my handy Pelican LED flashight outshone them all. A few late nights when I had to make my way to the campground bathroom, I couldn’t believe the broad spread of light from this tiny unit. It’s solid, sturdy, and would make a great stocking stuffer. Priced right around $27.

Fleece lined tights

I said this list was a little crazy and now I’m proving it with the inclusion of tights, of all things! Getting ready for Iceland, I was terrified that we wouldn’t be warmly dressed. This comes from a long-time resident of Phoenix and now Texas. I heard about fleece lined tights through the grapevine, and let me tell you, when I put them on for the first time, I was in cozy-cuddle heaven! If you live in cold weather or will be spending time in chilly weather, YOU NEED THESE!! My husband wouldn’t admit it, but I think he was jealous!!

fleece lined tights

Membership to Preppers University

One of the projects I’m most proud of is the multi-week, small group classes in Preppers University. These classes are called “Intensives” because they are so very, very intense. They are perfect for the beginning prepper, a prepper who has reached a decent level of being ready for emergencies but wants to become even more self-reliant, and even very advanced preppers. The classes are all live with some of the best-known names in the prepper and survival world and come with assignments, reading resources, printables, exclusive Facebook groups for networking, exclusive podcasts and video classes, and so much more. Tuition for each course is $139, the 8-week Prepping Intensive and the 6-week Advanced Prepping Intensive. As I wrote here, this is the absolute best I can offer you in the way of helping you get prepared.

Buy this as a gift and we’ll send a special “Gift to You” email to the lucky recipient. Learn more about our 2 courses here and register at this link.


Swedish Fire Knife

Here’s a great gift that is 2 products in 1, both an excellent knife and a firesteel fire starter. My family has had these in our emergency kits and camping gear for many years. They come in different colors, which makes them either easy to spot in a kit or bag (bright pink or orange, for example) or blend in with your regular, nondescript gear (black). The Swedish Fire Knife has a good quality, fixed steel blade.

Family mess kits

Another product made by the Swedish Fire Knife folks is this mess kit. Its 8 pieces includes a small cutting board, a spork, and a “harness” that holds the entire kit together. When I saw that it came in 7 different colors, I knew I had a winner. I let each kid pick their own favorite color and now that’s one less argument!

Vera Bradley fleece blankets

I bought one of these about 4 years ago and was hooked. They run a little on the expensive side, usually round $48-50, but they are wondrously lush with vibrant colors. And, they match absolutely nothing in y my house, but with this level of coziness, who cares? Here’s what’s funny: my teenage son loves them. He was even fine taking one with him on a recent Civil Air Patrol training school — but I talked him off that , ledge. This is a fantastic gift for just about anyone on your list. We keep ours rolled up and in little cubbies in the family room. We have other fleece blankets, but these are our favorites. You can buy Vera Bradley on Amazon, the prices are about the same as retail stores, but I always look for discounted blankets when I go to the Vera Bradley section of a local boutique. Oh, if you see very expensive prices on Amazon, it’s probably because that particular design is discontinued. Here’s the link to a few blankets on Amazon and the official Vera Bradley website with all the new colors and designs. (They come in 2 different sizes, so check for measurements.)

Wool socks

Socks and underwear for Christmas. Not much better than a lump of coal, right? Well, the right pair of wool socks will rock your world and change your mind about getting “just socks” for Christmas. Being a desert gal for most of my life, flip-flops were the name of the game when it came to footwear. However, when you’re out hiking or just wearing most any type of closed-toe footwear, wool socks are far more comfortable and absorbent than cotton. A nice bonus is that they don’t absorb odors. When we’re out in the wilderness, doing our primitive camping, and with no access to laundry facilities, we just hang our socks around the tent or draped over branches and let them air out overnight. I own wool products from both Smartwool and the REI brand and can recommend both.


Solavore Sport Oven or the All-American Sun Oven

Speaking of surviving in the great outdoors, one cooking method that requires no fuel other than the sun is solar. With a solar oven, the oven’s design and the sun do all the work, leaving you free for other activities. I have used and recommend the Solavore Sport Oven and the All American Sun Oven. They are both effective for cooking food and sanitizing water — they just have different designs. I compare and contrast both in this article. With either one, you get an excellent backup to your home’s stove/oven should the power go out and a portable oven for camping or picknicking. Both ovens come packaged with other products, so be sure to read the details carefully if you’re considering both.

Try the World subscription

I’m not an official paid rep for this company, but I really should be! These boxes of curated treats from all over the world are a monthly highlight for my family. We loved the box with treats from Italy (the chewy amaretto cookies were amazing!) and fell in love with chutneys and other condiments from places as varied as France, Morocco, and Brazil. Each box comes with recipes and a dozen or so full-size packages of foods and beverages. This year, Try the World was my go-to when it came time for business gifts. Check out the subscription options here. Receive 2 additional boxes for free by letting me refer to you Try the World! Just email to me your email address and I’ll make sure Try the World gets in touch with this special offer. (Send email to admin @thesurvivalmom.com) Thanks! (I receive a $15 gift card for each referral subscription.)

Lightweight fleece sleeping bag

I know everyone thinks the really cool, heavy duty sleeping bags are the bomb, but over the years, and on many camping trips, we discovered that our heavy bags were too much. So, one day while camping in northern Utah, we came across something wondrous at their local Walmart: fleece sleeping bags. They were just the right weight for so many nights and have been used for Civil Air Patrol camp-outs and sleepovers. I even packed them when we went to Iceland, and boy, were we glad. They added a welcome layer inside our heavier bags on cold nights as we slept in our camper van. This particular bag in the photo isn’t the exact brand we own, that would be Ozark Trail, but it appears to be very similar, although in a rather oddly arranged position.

I told you this was quite a mixed bag of gift suggestions, but this is kind of the year I had. A mash-up of family travel, trying new things, and making a point to be more hospitable. The busier we get, it seems, the less time we have for forming friendships, and that’s no way to live.

I may be adding more suggestions to this list over the next 72 hours or so and, as you can see, this list is appropriate any time of the year. For many more family and budget-friendly holiday ideas, be sure to check out my series, “12 Days of Christmas.

survival mom gifts

12 Days of Christmas: Day 7, Give the Gift of Preparedness

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 Christmas gifts for preppers

So is your gift shopping all finished?  If not, this year spread the message of preparedness with a plethora of thoughtful gift ideas that carry with them the underlying purpose of preparing your loved ones for emergencies. One of these just might put a huge, satisfied smile on the face of even the pickiest person on your list, and many of these are very budget friendly. Christmas gifts for preppers and non-preppers alike.

For the skeptic in your life

Give Patriots by James Wesley Rawles or One Second After by William Forstchen, and then sit back and wait for a panicked phone call.

For the prepper who seems to have everything

Give them a 6-week Advanced Prepping Intensive course with Preppers University. As one of the founders and an instructor, I can promise you, they will be challenged in ways they can’t imagine. From learning about how to plant and grow camouflaged gardens to setting up a communication schedule with timetables and codes — this course really does cover “advanced” prepping. Here’s a link with information about the course. (The 3 payment plan is a nice feature.)

For the road warrior

Put together a customized survival kit for their vehicle.  Think combo 72 Hour Kit/Road Emergency Kit.  You can find what you need in your own stash of supplies, sporting goods stores, and automotive stores. Customize it with gear and other supplies unique to their circumstances, such as needed OTC medications (see this list for suggestions). If you’re short on time, a ready-made kit is a good substitute, and if you order online, shipping to another address is easy.

For the beginning prepper

Nothing says, “I love you and want you to survive TEOTWAWKI,” like a 5-gallon food grade bucket filled with packets of freeze dried or dehydrated foods, a portable water filter, a gift certificate for range time at a local shooting range, and a copy of my family survival book, Survival Mom. It’s very easy and fun to read with over 300 pages of helpful info, family activities, and checklists. I recommend Mountain House meals.

For the overwhelmed mom

A “Mom’s Survival Kit” filled with small snacks, coloring and activity books and small toys may be her only link to sanity someday as she and her brood hunker down in a bomb shelter or, more likely, are stranded on the side of the road.  Add a gourmet chocolate bar and a fun magazine or novel, and she’ll weep tears of joy.

For someone who needs a new hobby

A gift certificate for shooting lessons, a canning course, hunting skills and safety, a craft class at a store like Jo-Anne, a master gardener course, and so on. In one fell swoop, you’ll have that gift checked off on your list and will have opened the door to a new hobby that could last a lifetime.

And, finally, ultimate survival gifts for the King or Queen of Preppers

I have a fun list of 23 gifts that may seem extreme, or not, but for sure, they are the ultimate when it comes to gift-giving in this category. You’ll find that list here.

Christmas gifts for preppers

The 12 Days of Christmas: Day 6, The Gift of Memories

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gift of memories

Here’s an idea for something even the youngest members of your family will enjoy making and receiving: their own collection of photo memories. When my daughter was three years-old, I made a photo collage for her room.  I combined small photos of family members and close friends, a pic or two from recent vacations, and a few of her and put them in a store-bought collage frame. Even though she was just a preschooler, she loved having her own collage of memories and the people she loved.

This year she placed about a dozen photos from past family vacations in our Christmas tree. Once sentimental, always sentimental, I guess, but I realized how inexpensive photos can decorate for the holidays and throughout the year.

Our tree has ornaments made of tiny photo collages and photos inside clear glass balls. Add some shiny tinsel to that glass ornament, and you have something that is both memorable and beautiful. These make great gifts for teachers, friends, and even your kids’ friends. At barely over $1 each, they are gifts manageable for even tight budgets.

Another very inexpensive tree ornament are plastic sparkling snowflakes, like these. For years we’ve nestled these in the branches of our Christmas trees, but with a little hot glue, you can easily personalize them with family photos. What a great family project to select photos from this year’s best memories and create a scrapbook of sorts you can enjoy all season long. Be sure to store these in a cool location during the rest of the year in order to preserve the photos.

Take this idea a little farther by making photo ornaments that feature old photos from past decades. What a treat for a grandparent to receive a collection of ornaments with photos from her past and of her kids and grandkids as they grew through the years!

In today’s age of digital photographs, it’s easier than ever to compile incredible memories from months and even years gone by. You can store thousands of them in the cloud, on a flash drive, or your computer’s hard drive, and then quickly sort through to find the best photos to keep when the holidays arrive. There are so many different gift options beyond tree ornaments.

For gift-giving, consider sorting your photos in different categories, depending on who the gift is for. Once you’ve selected the best of the best, you might find that some are best suited for different people:

  • Grandparents on each side of the family
  • Long-distance relatives on each side of the family
  • Grown kids who have left the nest
  • Close family friends

These very simple craft foam photo frames can be decorated by even the youngest family member. Online sites like Canva and Pic Monkey allow you to edit photos, add captions, and create collages, all for free. Add a frame and you have a gift.

For the past two years I’ve taken this idea and applied it to wall calendars using Shutterfly and Snapfish.  Sadly, I’m not a scrapbooking queen, but even I was able to make beautiful digital collages for each month of the year. In addition to the photos, there is space on each calendar page for a few words.  I included favorite Bible verses one year, and this year, phrases from favorite songs.

One year I created a hard-cover book for my parents. It was a collection of the many “mom and dad” type sayings they were famous for over the years and placed a few photos of us kids and the grandkids on each page. Are your parents or some other family member famous for certain sayings? This is a fun way to remember their words and add corresponding photos. Here’s a sample from the book I created:


Putting together photo memories is do-able on any budget, and the finished product is priceless. Online companies like Shutterfly make it possible to have your photos printed on calendars, mugs, fleece blankets, canvas wall hangings, note cards, and so much more. Printing digital photos at home or through an online service like COSTCO or Walgreens has never been cheaper or easier. Even when Christmas is only days away, it’s possible to print photos at home or through a one-hour service. One year, with my back to the wall, I was able to design our annual photo Christmas card, get it printed at Walgreens and then sent out the same day. Whew!

If you’re an Amazon Prime customer, and I highly recommend becoming one, in 2 short days you can have answers to your gift giving dilemmas. This cute clothesline-of-photos caught my eye because the 51khqdy4culphotos can be changed and you can add other mementos, including your child’s artwork.

If you’ve ever doubted the value of photographs, then imagine what it would be like 10 years from now to have no images at all of precious moments like birthdays, holidays, or just hanging out as a family. When you give the gift of memories, you give not only a gift but something far more precious.

gift of memories

The 12 Days of Christmas: Day 5, Keep it Simple, Sweetie!

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simple Christmas

Have you noticed that the most memorable moments in life are often the simplest?  Children, in particular, are happy with simple, basic pleasures.  Life is too complicated all by itself, and at Christmas time, it gets even worse! Aim for a simple Christmas this year.

Focus on simple activities that make the most of family time together. To make sure they actually happen, the key is scheduling. In my life, if it goes on the calendar, it gets done.  If it floats around in my head, it will almost always be forgotten. So grab that December calendar, think about what your family would enjoy, and then make a date! Here are some ideas to get  you started.

  • Family game night — card games, board games, teach the kids how to play backgammon. One of our new favorites is Tenzi, a fun dice game you can play just about anywhere.
  • Family baking night. If funds are low, put your food storage to good use! From-scratch goodies can be very frugal when you’re talking about snickerdoodless, sugar cookies, caramel popcorn, oatmeal cookies, gingerbred, and brownies. See what you already have the ingredients for and try not to run out to get anything else. For sure, if your plan is to just buy one ingredient, say chocolate chips, you’ll end up spending fifty bucks. That’s the way these things work!
  • Set out a Christmas jigsaw puzzle and spend time working on it throughout the month. You can probably find one at a thrift store.
  • Family talent night. No talent?  No problem!  This is for pure entertainment, and a few laughs!
  • Walk around the neighborhood to look at the lights, or become impromptu Christmas decoration judges and actually award prizes houses with the most outstanding light displays.
  • A family craft night, making ornaments or gifts. I list numerous possible crafts in this article that ar suitable for gifts but also as a family hobby.
  • Invite a few friends over for a holiday goodie potluck, hot chocolate, and reading the real Christmas story
  • Hot chocolate. Tonight my son came home drenched from an icy rainstorm and hubby walked in minutes later, chilled. I whipped up some homemade hot chocolate from scratch and we enjoyed the hot drink together before getting back into the busyness of our day.
  • Churches in your area will be holding festivities of all kinds and all will be free.
  • Check out your library’s event calendar. There will be holiday story hours and activities and maybe craft hours.

I’ll bet you could add a half dozen or more suggestions to this list. Keep it simple and inexpensive. Your aim is a peaceful holiday with memorable moments — not mom with a migraine, stressed hubby, grumpy kids, and an emptied bank account.

If we say that spending time with our family and friends is the most important part of the holidays, then doesn’t it make sense to do just that?  Simple times spent together make memories and build relationships.

Years ago, friends gave us tickets to see “The Christmas Sweater” with Glenn Beck. I’ll never forget a comment he made — what he wants most for Christmas is time.  We can make more money, we can buy more food, we can get more stuff, but the one thing we can’t make more of is time.  Make the most of the time that is still left of this beautiful holiday season by scheduling simple, fun activities with the ones you love.  Ultimately, those are the moments that make forever memories.

simple christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas: Day 4, A gift of service

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12 Days of Christmas Day 4 A Gift of Service via The Survival Mom

Christmas is coming, and my wallet isn’t nearly as fat as it was last year.  This year some real creativity is called for if I’m going to have gifts for everyone on my list.  That’s what I was thinking about last week when out of the blue, my awesome sister-in-law unknowingly provided the answer: gifts of service.

You see, the Paranoid Dad is extremely proficient when it comes to everything electrical.  His sister has been longing for outdoor lights on their patio, and when he drew her name in the family gift drawing, she said, “What I really want for Christmas is for you to put up those lights for me!”   This started me thinking about giving in a whole new way.

Unlike a new tie, a gift card, bedroom slippers or just about any other gift you can think of, a gift of service is primarily given with the needs of the recipient in mind.  Stay-at-home moms with young children and homeschooling moms would love nothing more than to have a couple of free hours every now and then to themselves.  How about offering a, “Mom’s Day Out” coupon to provide free childcare once a month?  Any working mom would likely cry at the offer of half a dozen frozen homemade dinners, and a dad too busy working long hours to tend to his backyard would love having an extra pair of hands, or two, or three, to help pull weeds and mow.

See what I mean?  A gift of service comes directly from your heart to touch the heart of someone in need.  The gift is unique and unforgettable and can be given as often during the year as you like.  What talents or skills do you have that might fulfill a need in the life of a friend or family member?

It may take some time, observations, and some clever conversations on your part to figure out what service you could provide.

This time next year my sister-in-law won’t remember who gave her which gift twelve months earlier, but she’ll never forget who installed her patio lights.

12 Days of Christmas Day 4 A Gift of Service via The Survival Mom

The 12 Days of Christmas: Day 3, Light Up Someone’s Holiday

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charitable christmas giving

Do you ever get tired of all the beautiful, sparkling lights decorating trees and homes at this time of year?  I never do.  I love watching the faces of our kids when they spy yet another home all lit up for Christmas.  We’re keeping a list, and checking it twice, of all the homes on our block that are lit up! One year every house but 2 were lit up, and it was a special treat.

Most of us say that our homes are at their most beautiful during this time of year, but not everyone has the means or ability to decorate. Charitable Christmas giving can go beyond a bag of groceries or a donation to the Salvation Army. Is there a senior citizen in your neighborhood or a family struggling to make ends meet who would love a strand or two of lights scattered around their front yard?  An inexpensive wreath and window decals can add a touch of extra Christmas spirit to a hospital room or the smallest apartment. You might even have an unwanted artificial tree sitting in the garage or attic that might be an appreciated gift to someone who won’t be able to afford a real one.

A couple of years ago, my daughter got together with a group of friends and they made beautiful holiday cards, ending up with 70 or 80. The following day, one of the moms took the kids around to a few nursing homes where they delivered the cards to the residents there. So many of these elderly folks have been forgotten by family and rarely, if ever, get a visitor. If there’s just one thing I could urge you to do this Christmas, it would be to find a way to reach out to these lonely hearts.

And don’t forget families who celebrate Hanukkah.  Blue and white lights, a box of Hanukkah candles, and, of course, a plate of homebaked goodies spread the real meaning of the season.

Charitable “Holiday Buckets” can include simple decorations for doors, windows, and mantles, as well as groceries, baked goodies, and small gifts. Over the years I’ve donated dozens of Christmas decor items to Goodwill and other organizations, so I’m certain you could find holiday decorations at thrift stores at very low prices. Just make sure they are operating, in the case of lights or music, and in near-new condition.

Another way to enjoy the holiday lights is to give a homemade certificate to the “First Place Winner” among all the homes decorated in your neighborhood.  Last year we handed out two certificates, left them by the front doors, actually, to the two homes we thought had the best light displays. It was fun biking around our neighborhood late at night, and then having a family pow-wow in the freezing temperatures to make our final choices!

This season can be one of beauty, warm memories, and there are thousands of newly unemployed people, and more families than ever who won’t have money for gifts and all the other holiday traditions of the past.  This Christmas, more than ever, let’s all look for ways to light up someone’s holiday.

charitable christmas giving

The 12 Days of Christmas: Day 2, Read All About It!

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christmas read alouds

Every year about this time, our kids always look forward to unpacking our collection of holiday books.  During the month of December, we keep them in a basket in the family room, ready for a read-aloud or a quiet read-alone. This is the season to enjoy some really terrific books as a family. Trust me. Your kids will love a nightly reading time as they cuddle up in blankets, nibble on popcorn or cookies and listen to Mom or Dad read.

If you don’t have many, or any, holiday books, you can visit the library, borrow from friends, download on Kindle, or purchase.  Any day now, your library’s shelves will be emptied of every book related to Hanukkah and Christmas, so don’t wait!  Grab your library card and make a book run!  Not surprisingly, Amazon has a huge selection with prices generally lower than bookstores. This can be a very budget-friendly tradition, and once you have your collection of books, you store them away with your other holiday decorations and pull the out each year.

One more way to enjoy these books for free is to use your library’s electronic audiobooks. Depending on the book, you can either download it onto your computer or other electronic device, turn up the volume, and listen.

The nice thing about these books is that they never get old.  We read them only during the month of December, and pack them away until next year.  Here are a few books my kids have been enjoying for years.

If you gather together 31 Christmas/Hanukkah themed books, you can create your own Advent calendar of sorts, presenting a new book to the kids each night.

Maybe your kids are fascinated by other countries and cultures around the world. It’s easy to combine a little geography with stories about international Christmas festivities.

One of the best bonding times you can have as a family, with kids or grandkids, is a read-aloud time. When we went to Iceland this fall, I read Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, which, coincidentally, begins in Iceland. Even though my kids are now teenagers, they still enjoyed the story and when there were still a few chapters to go by the time we returned home, they bugged me to continue reading.

There’s something about the read-aloud experience that is positively addicting.

Any of the above titles would be suitable for read-alouds, but if you’d like a longer, chapter book, check these out:

It wouldn’t be hard to stage the “perfect family Christmas evening” with a read-aloud, hot chocolate and everyone in pajamas. I think kids instinctively love being cozy, and this has all the necessary ingredients.

Enjoy your family time this year, and if family is scarce this year, here is a list of children’s hospitals around the country in need of volunteers.

12 Days of Christmas Day 2 Read All About It via The Survival Mom

The 12 Days of Christmas: Day 1, A New Craft for Your Kids

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crafts for kids

The Paranoid Dad and I have been brainstorming ideas for having a richer holiday experience with the kids without a huge emphasis on gifts and getting.  My son, in particular, needs to learn more about the joy of giving and the joy of this beautiful season.  We’ve come up with a list of twelve family activities to incorporate into the next three weeks or so.  Not surprisingly, some of these have a “preparedness” theme, but others are just for fun.  I’ll be posting one each day for the next twelve days.  Hope they inspire you and your family!

By the way, I know the traditional 12 Days of Christmas begins on December 25 and runs through Epiphany, January 6, but if I started sharing with you all my great holiday ideas on the 25th, that wouldn’t be very helpful now, would it?  🙂

Day 1, A new craft for your kids

Make the most of your kids’ Christmas vacation …or Winter Holiday or Solstice Observation Days or whatever term your local school district is using these days!  Your kids have about fourteen uninterrupted days at home, and no doubt you’ll start hearing complaints about boredom and how there’s nothing to do.  Start planning ahead right now to teach them at least one new craft skill that might also help them create gifts for family members or friends.  Don’t worry about being an expert yourself.  It’s even more fun when parents and kids learn something new together!

Since all of us have different learning styles, I suggest getting an instructional book and then using YouTube videos to supplement the learning process. With their hands actually holding the craft supplies and their eyes and ears engaged with instruction, your kids and grandkids will be able to master these crafts for kids much more quickly.

Here’s a fun variety of skills to consider, along with links to helpful, instructional books:

For supplies, check out eBay, garage sales, and Craigslist and watch for craft store coupons. Even better, find a family friend or relative who can teach a new skill to your kids. The beauty of a gift like this, whether given during the holidays, on a birthday, or one of those “just because” gifts, is that they all invite interaction. When my daughter and I are sitting on the couch knitting our different projects, we have time for relaxed and casual conversation. If you give this type of gift, set aside some time to help your kids or grandkids get started, maybe start a project of your own, and then enjoy the time together.

Give your children a gift that could last a lifetime: a new hobby. Read more here…
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Honestly, in my 17 years of parenting, time together is irreplaceable and priceless. Too often, I get consumed in one of my many projects, leaving my kids to figure out something on their own. Ultimately, that undermines the home environment and atmosphere I desire. A shared hobby goes a very long way toward creating bonding time, and it’s so easy to do.

NOTE: One of my Skills of the Month is “Handicrafts”. Check out this section for many more related articles.

One possible benefit to many of these crafts for kids is that they can become an income source down the road. A very good friend of mine creates gorgeous wooden tankards with her husband and that provides income for them throughout the year. There’s always a market for beautiful and well-crafted items, whether they’re knitted scarves, a quilt, or a beautiful handmade birdhouse.

This month, before your young’uns even say the words, “I’m bored!”, be ready with craft supplies to keep them busy and productive!  If the craft has practical applications, such as knitting, so much the better.

crafts for kids

Carry These 11 Items In Your Car to Survive a Wildfire

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items-in-car-survive-wildfireI’ve been watching recent video from the horrific wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Friends of mine owned a home there, now destroyed by wildfire, and many other friends and acquaintances enjoyed the area during family vacations. As of this writing, there hasn’t been much relief in the way of rain to put an end to these firestorms.

This video gives a vivid picture of how quickly these fires grew, as this man drives through them to safety. Wildfire safety is no easy matter, as I explain in this article.

(Warning: Strong language.)

In a Facebook discussion about the video and the fires, a reader, Carolyn, commented on having a couple of items in the car to help deal with the heat and smoke. I began thinking along those lines and came up with this list of items, all on the small and inexpensive side, you should keep handy in your vehicle, especially if you live or travel in areas that are prone to fires or could become that way due to drought conditions.

Driving through a fire like this is very, very dangerous. Smoke and fumes can quickly fill a vehicle and rubber tires can melt on the hot asphalt. As important as it is for all passengers to remain calm and with a face mask, even a wet bandana tied around the nose and mouth is better than nothing, it’s even more important that the driver be able to maintain his or her focus.

Just as flight attendants instruct parents to first put on their own oxygen mask in case of an emergency, the driver of a vehicle must protect his or her own eyes and respiratory system, in particular. A Readi-Mask is one product that does both, is one-use only, and so compact it fits just about anywhere. Respirator masks are more bulky, range in price from quite reasonable to very expensive, and most will not include eye protection. However, a pair of swim goggles or tightly fitting shooting-range goggles work very well for this purpose.

If the vehicle’s air circulation system begins to allow in too much smoke or fumes, you can close it down and use a small battery-powered fan to move air around. In the case of this video, the driver’s dog was beginning to show signs of overheating. Between the flow of air and water to drink, or squeezed with a cloth over an animal’s tongue, a pet will have a better chance of surviving the very hot environment.

At one point in the video, it appears that the driver has to get out and move branches. Between eye protection, a respirator, heavy work gloves (this pair is also fire resistant), and a sharpened ax or hatchet, there’s a good chance this type of road clearing can be done quickly. However, again, the driver should remain in the best of health since the survival of the entire party depends on it, and the task of clearing a road may best be left in the hands of another able bodied adult.

Many of the items typically carried in an emergency kit can help with wildfire survival, and those kits should already be packed somewhere safe in each vehicle you own. I prefer to make my own kit and assemble it from products I know are all high quality, but a Mombies bag, which I’ve owned for a few years now, is unbeatable for women. Otherwise, well-equipped bags like this one can be found online and in retail stores. Just be sure to check out all the items and add anything specific to your own family’s needs.

Fires invariably darken the sky and turn daylight into night. A few LED flashlights are a necessity and can be used to signal rescuers, if necessary. At least one headlamp would allow you to use your hands and should also be included.

Finally, be aware that elderly people, those with chronic health issues, and very young children and babies will have the most difficulty with breathing in conditions caused by a wildfire. Take time to insure you have well-fitting facemasks for them. They should spend some time wearing a face mask, even if it’s one that is a simple dust/particulate mask, to get used to the sensation. Many people feel suffocated wearing something over their nose and mouth, so it can take some getting used to.

In the case of the Gatlinburg fires, a combination of multiple arson-set fires, dry conditions, and hurricane force winds combined to create a lethal scenario that caught even emergency responders by surprise. Typically, wildfires are tracked for hours and days, giving residents ample warning to evacuate to safety. However, as we’ve learned from similar fires in Israel, fire can be utilized as a weapon to destroy and terrorize. This article explains how wildfires can endanger your preps, your family, and your own life, and this book is a complete guide to planning and carrying out an emergency evacuation.

If you find yourself driving anywhere near a wildfire, have the radio tuned to an emergency news broadcast. There are handy police scanner phone apps that will also keep you up to date, and the American Red Cross Wildfire app comes with active wildfire warnings and survival tips. Not being at the wrong place at the wrong time is the best prep of all.


The Best I Can Do to Help You Prepare

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Click image to learn more and buy this one-time-only bundle!

This blog is over 7 years old. It contains a wealth of information — more than 1600 articles. There are over 100 podcasts you can access via iTunes and my Survival Mom book is just perfect for any individual or family wanting to be better prepared.

But, earlier this year, I realized that I can do more. The missing piece here on Survival Mom blog and, actually, in the entire prepper and survival niche is a CONNECTION. If you’re like me, you probably have read hundreds of articles, dozens of books, you’ve been prepping here and there, but you constantly feel like your way is aimless and you aren’t really prepared.

The reason for that? Lack of personal connection with other preppers and zero accountability. If you procrastinate filling those water bottles, buying canned food, taking a first aid class — well, nothing has happened thus far, so maybe your luck will hold out a while longer. In the meantime, you still feel a nagging doubt that you would be ready for anything really bad.

As I thought about this, and having been in the same boat, I realized that a live connection that offers the chance for everyday preppers to chat with experts in a live, small group class was part of the answer. I remembered my years as a teacher and how important it was to my students to have an organized course of study, regular assignments, the ability to ask questions, and some accountability when they got lazy or distracted!

You, as a prepper, aren’t very different!

Preppers University offers 2 multiw-week classes that do all of the above. During these Prepping Intensives, you get:

  • Access to world class survival and prepper experts like Ferando Aguirre (FerFAL), Selco, foraging expert Merriwether, rural living and homesteading expert Patrice Lewis, EMP expert Dr. Arthur T. Bradley, prepper author Jim Cobb, and dozens more.
  • In live classes you can chat with these experts and get all your questions answered.
  • A treasure trove of articles related to the Prepping Intensive curriculum. See the PI curriculum here and the Advanced PI curriculum here.
  • Exclusive podcasts you can listen to 24/7.
  • A Student Resource Center with hundreds of free ebook downloads, recorded webinars from previous PI sessions, a Book of the Month Club, an exclusive forum and lots more.
  • Weekly challenges and To Do lists.
  • DIY projects in our Advanced PI class.
  • A new group of prepping friends you can get to know and network with.
  • …and so much more.

You can access the PI materials no matter where you are, at any time of the day. This is really the very best I can do for you. It goes so far beyond just a book, a podcast, an article, or even a webinar — this is an entire package that will move you forward in your prepping, miles beyond wherever you are now.

Here’s my Black Friday deal

I’m jumping on the bandwagon this weekend with just about everyone else. Through Monday, November 28, I’ve decreased the price of an Intensive to $119 and adding a very nice, complimentary bundle of goodies. The $119 price tag includes:

  • Your choice of Intensive classes, either the 8 week foundational Prepping Intensive or the 6 week Advanced Prepping Intensive
  • Our 2-hour course, “How to Survive Civil Unrest” — very timely.
  • The 190+ page e-textbook that provides a wealth of information related to civil unrest in our current political climate.
  • Membership to our Student Resource Center
  • My very newest ebook, One Second After the Lights Go Out: How to Survive in a Post-EMP World
  • An ebook copy of my book, Emergency Evacuations: Get Out Fast When It Matters Most
  • A brand new ebook by author Daisy Luther, Have Yourself a Thrifty Little Christmas
  • Also by Daisy, a recipe book, Recipes From the Pantry Primer

Click here to learn more and buy this bundle!

All this will keep you on your toes during the New Year as your continue to prep. Our political leadership in Washington may have changed, but in no way are we in the clear where economic catastrophes, in particular, are concerned, and the next few years are certain to be tumultuous.

Join me, Daisy Luther, and dozens of our guest instructors at Preppers University and enjoy this bundle of top-notch resources.

This offer ends Monday, November 28. Prepping Intensives begin on January 8, 2017.


24 Ways to Prepare for Your Spring Garden in the Dead of Winter

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prepare-spring-garden-in-winterIt can be hard to think about gardening when it’s below freezing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Cold weather is the perfect time for planning!

If you are thinking (like I might have perhaps thought in the past) that you can just grab a few packs of seeds from the local hardware store or super store in April or so, put them in the ground, and you’ll see something come up in a few months, well, you’re mostly wrong. You definitely can grow food during the cooler months! It’s not rocket science, but it does require some thought and planning.

Fall Preparation

Before it freezes (or at least quickly after the first frost):

1. Remove and discard diseased parts of plants. But not into the compost! (If you put them into the compost, the weeds could sprout up wherever you use the compost later.

2. Mulch over any plants that might be susceptible to the cold (about 8″ deep), including over-wintering vegetables such as carrots, so they are still alive in the spring.

3. Make sure all beds are composted or mulched. A compost pail with a charcoal filter will allow you to start your compost stash inside the house while controlling odors until you can empty it outdoors.

4. Clean up, maintain, and properly store garden tools and equipment. Note any that need replaced. If you need a new set of good quality hand tools like the ones in this kit, add it to your Christmas list!

5. If any garden tools need significant repairs, take them in to be fixed.

6. Start a wish-list of gifts you would like. The holidays are approaching!

Planning for next spring

7. Order seed catalogs. There are multiple good companies, so go ahead and order a few. You may be surprised by what you find, and really good catalogs will have your mouth watering and you itching to start digging in the dirt. A couple of my own favorites are Seeds of Change and Baker Creek.

Remember: if you want to save the seeds from the plants to grow new plants in the future, you almost certainly will want heirloom varieties.

8. Decide if you want to use cold frames or another technique to extend your growing season. Plan and build accordingly, if you want to go for it.

9. Start diagramming/planning what you want where. Once you have a very general plan – vegetable garden, herb garden, annuals, perennials, bushes, and trees planned out – it’s time to start getting more specific. A journal specifically designed for gardeners will give you room to plan your garden, journal your efforts, and then make notes about what worked and what didn’t.

10. Check the viability and test germination of any seeds you have on hand.

11. When planning, start with the plants that take the longest to mature and will be there for the longest – the trees. Next come bushes, then perennials including any perennial herbs, annuals including vegetables, and finally any potted plants.

The last would be plants that can’t survive in your area that you really want. In my case, I have some potted chamomile and an aloe plant that I bring in during the winter. Other people have lemon trees, but it could be almost anything.

12. Ask these questions for trees, bushes, perennials, and annuals:

  • Do you want to plant any new ones?
  • What kind?
  • How will planting these affect other plants you’ll put nearby? If you put in a tree that gets very wide, so you probably won’t want to plant bushes or anything long-lasting near it, but annual flowers could do great and provide a nice pop of color!
  • Are there any other plants that cannot coexist with it?
  • What plants do really well with it?
  • Where do you want them on your lot? You may realize that you want a vegetable garden near the driveway, but you need some bushes between it and your teenage driver.

13. Start picking out what you want! I think this is the most fun. I can totally lose myself in seed catalogs.

Guidance on Picking Plants

14. Decide what you are looking for, and why. I like unusual varieties of common plants, like yellow carrots or banana melons. You might prefer more traditional orange carrots. This article with advice from a master gardener may help you make these decisions.

15. Do you want to involve your kids? My youngest loves picking out plants. It makes him crazy-happy to pick out, plant, nurture, and (sometimes) eat plants. There are areas in the garden with nothing planned so he can put whatever makes him happy. And yes, sometimes he decides on a spot I know or that makes me a bit crazy, but it still goes there unless I have a really good reason not to – like it’s right exactly where the mower will kill it.

16. Don’t forget to check which grow zone you live in. Your county or state extension service might have more detailed information available, or ask at a local nursery, to get the best information.

17. If you plant an herb garden, be sure to check which weeds are considered weeds or pests in your area. I planted lemon balm, which can go crazy, but I made sure to plant it where the driveway, a brick walk, and the house formed three sides, containing it a bit. (It’s apparently a member of the mint family, and they all grow like crazy pretty easily.) Yarrow is also considered a weed, but not invasive like lemon balm. So, to me, as a not-so-active-gardener, that just means yarrow will be harder for my chronic neglect to kill.

18. Think about what you actually use and eat. I planted about 8 oregano plants a few years ago and they grew great – but I rarely use oregano in my cooking. I love the smell of lavender and it’s a slight bug repellant, so I have planted a bunch of that around the house. I am interested in herbal remedies, so I planted yarrow, several kinds of mint and chamomile. The last two are potted. One, so it doesn’t spread and take over everything, the other because it can’t survive a winter outside in our climate.

19. Use kitchen leftovers to start new plants. Since you’ve already eaten them, you know these are veggies you’ll like. Growing pineapples this way is easy, too.

Steps to Take Mid-Winter

20. Consider the weather – is it an unusually cold or snowy winter? Is it mild? If it is mild, then you probably don’t need to do anything extra to your plants, but if it is a really cold or snowy year, you might want to protect your plants better. Last year, I lost almost all of the strawberry plants that I had nurtured from a few starts over the previous four years! A layer of mulch over top of them would have kept the cold out and the plants alive, even though they didn’t need it in previous warmer winters.

21. Take advantage of the increased visibility from all the plants dying or being dormant and take a good look at your grounds. Are there areas of erosion? If so, you have a project for spring and can start researching and planning how to best fix it.

22. Can you see roots damaging walls, foundations, pathways, or anything else? Don’t forget to check the area near the septic field and the well. In the spring, have a professional take care of any problematic roots. Research a good tree service and ask for referrals from friends and neighbors.

23. Where does the snow and ice melt first and where does it last? That gives you an idea of what spots naturally receive more sunlight or less sunlight. Of course, the micro-climate(s) in your yard will be a little different when the trees have leaves and as the angles of the sun change, but this will give you a starting point.

24. It’s finally time to start planting, even with the ground frozen rock-hard. Start your hardy (early season) plants indoors. In four to six weeks, you can put them in the ground and start the next group of plants inside. A Grow Zone map can  help you determine what to plant and when, as the weather begins to warm up.

Hopefully these tips will help you and your family get excited for your garden for next summer and you’ll have a great growing season!

Enjoy the process and the produce!

This article was updated on November 17, 2016.

Parenting In Difficult Times: Potty Training

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Thank you Cottonelle® for sponsoring this post. Stay tuned to the Cottonelle® Facebook page and Brit Morin’s site “Brit & CO” for more great tips and tricks.

I know quite well what it’s like to parent during difficult, trying times. Our potty training days, many years ago, were stressful in their own way and my memory still bears the scars.

When I asked a handful of mothers about potty training their children during stressful times, I got quite an earful.

“Don’t do it!” one mom said.

She’s probably right, but necessary parenting tasks don’t always coordinate only with days of sunshine and rainbow-colored unicorns. Potty training can be highly stressful on everyone in family, as I’m sure you’ve learned. That particular emotion is more contagious than chicken pox.

Amanda, a young mom from my Facebook group, told me about working to teach her daughter how to use the toilet, only to find herself in the midst of a divorce. “Potty training during a divorce is sheer madness. I haven’t found the key, other than each kid is different. She’s home (with me) one minute and then at her dad’s the next, and he doesn’t potty train.”

Adding to Amanda’s stress level, her daughter has had multiple ear infections and is trying to adjust to a new daycare center. Even an adult would have difficulty learning something as fundamental as potty training in this scenario!

Another sweet mom, Tammy, talked about making great strides in potty training with her 2 year old daughter, but then a baby brother was born prematurely. The family had to spend hours at NICU and then dad lost his job. Between financial pressures and a tiny baby, potty training just had to take a back seat. Tammy reverted to the use of cloth diapers and realized it was perfectly okay to take a step back if that meant less stress for her and the entire family

Survival Mom writer, Beth Buck, knows a thing or two about parenting and potty training during difficult times. Her young son struggled to get the whole diaper-to-potty thing figured out when the family was hit with the deaths of 2 beloved grandparents, a new baby with health issues and a series of surgeries, and a dad going to school full time.

Beth figured out a few things that helped her and her sweet son from going off the deep end:

  1. Pull-Ups are a great invention but they are not a silver bullet because they absorb so much liquid that little ones don’t realize they are wet. Sometimes the Pull-Up becomes saturated and you end up with leaks.
  2. Pull-Ups can also a life-saver! They cut down on the amount of laundry that has to be done.
  3. Day to day, Beth’s son has an easier time with potty use when he feels secure and gets lots of reminders. The downside is that when the household is stressed, reminders can slip through the cracks. No pun intended.
  4. Inevitably, nighttime accidents happen, and when they do, these disposable bed mats are worth their weight in gold.

All of the moms I talked with, along with my own experiences, said to not rush potty training. If a major life event is anticipated, such as a family move or the birth of a new baby, the potty training can wait. Experienced mom, Charlotte, said she just kept reminding herself that her kids would be trained to use the toilet by the time they were teenagers and didn’t stress too much over set-backs!

Life’s unanticipated disasters

So what if life throws a major curveball, something you could never anticipate, and you’re right in the middle of training that precious little one? From a Survival Mom’s perspective, keep these things in mind:

  1. Many disasters involve long-term power outages, so have an alternate way to do laundry. Even when a child is full potty trained, they can have relapses when faced with scary situations. Be ready for the possibility of bed-wetting and just plain, old forgetting to use the toilet.
  2. Water could be an issue during an event like major flooding, so be prepared with a few cases of bottled water for drinking and additional water for cleaning, laundry, cooking, and sanitation. Plan on 2 gallons of water per day, per person.
  3. Buy liners for your child’s potty chair. This will help greatly with clean-up during a time when your attention and efforts need to be on other things.
  4. You may have to evacuate your home, so be ready with that portable potty chair, liners, toilet paper like Cottonelle® Mega Roll, a change of clothing, and sanitizer. All this could be stored together in a single bin, ready to tote out to the car. Bonus: When empty, the bin makes a handy, makeshift bathtub. This book has a complete plan for emergency evacuations.
  5. Speaking of toilet paper, it doesn’t hurt to have a month’s worth of extra TP on hand. This coupon from Cottonelle® can help you stock up. A snowstorm, flood, family crisis can all make it difficult to get to the store and you don’t want to be fighting over that last roll!
  6. Expect a relapse. Have at least one package of diapers in the appropriate size, just in case. Cloth or disposable (here are the pros and cons of each) — it’s your choice, but with one package of disposables, you’d be ready to deal with a relapse and not worry about storing dirty diapers nor laundering them.
  7. Stay calm. That’s easier said than done, I know. A stressed out kid and mom aren’t a good combination when it comes to potty training.
  8. If you’re determined to continue with potty training no matter what, and I do know a few moms who are that determined!, plan on a small reward system that won’t take much time but might still help you from starting back at Square One. Something like a hand stamp or a tiny sticker to put on their hand — anything to say, “You did it!” You can keep something like that handy in your pocket.
  9. Keep the basics in your purse or backpack at all times. By the time your child is on the path to potty training, you may have gotten out of the habit of carrying a fully stocked diaper bag, but in a real crisis, you should have a Pull-Up, diaper, training pants, or big kid underwear at hand, along with a packet of wipes.
  10. Continue with as much of a daily schedule as possible, not necessarily for potty training but for creating a sane environment for everyone, no matter what is going on or where you are. A while back I wrote about doing just this in a shelter-in-place scenario.

Everyday challenges

So whcottonelleat if a worst case scenario hasn’t suddenly turned your world apocalyptic? What if your challenge is just a chaotic family schedule that is making potty training more difficult than your friends say it should be?

One tiny detail that gets overlooked is poor quality toilet paper. My daughter was very finicky during the whole potty training experience and anything messy or dirty could lead to quite a scene. Cottonelle® Mega Roll toilet paper is one brand that is not only 4 rolls in 1 but is more absorbent than an off-brand I had been using. Also, with more sheets per roll, there’s less changing the roll and less hassle.

Actually, I took advantage of that super-clean obsession of hers one day when we’d been struggling with the overall concept of the toilet. She wasn’t quite fully trained, but I bought her a package of very cute “big girl” underwear and let her wear them around the house. It only took a couple of yucky accidents for her to figure out that if she really wanted to wear those coveted panties she’d have to take care of business on the potty.

Experienced mom, Tonya, told me that she always changed her children’s diapers quickly after every pee and poop so they never got used to the sensation of a soggy diaper. Once they switched to big kid underwear, they instantly knew when they were wet and didn’t like it one bit.

Dad and even older siblings can help with the task of keeping the trainee on schedule. Donna says that it’s all about the scheduling. The potty comes first thing in the morning, mid-moring, after each meal, mid-afternoon, and then at bedtime. It won’t be long until you’ll recognize your child’s signals. Use the timer feature on a wristwatch or clock to help you and other family members remember the potty visits.

If weekdays are nuts, then try Sonja’s technique. She picked a warm summer day and let her boys stay naked all day. The potty chair was nearby, the boys were told how to use it, and within 2 days, they were both trained.

For even more potty training tips, Cottonelle® has teamed up with lifestyle expert, Brit Morin, to provide more ways to help families in this video.

I was selected for this opportunity to work with Cottonelle® and opinions expressed here are my own.

Food Storage Smarts: Stock Up On Meal Stretchers

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Food Storage Smarts Stock Up On Meal Stretchers via The Survival Mom

For many of us, buying food specifically for food storage is an additional expense that can, sometimes, become too burdensome. When money is tight, it’s hard enough to cover the groceries for our main meals, much less add another few day’s worth of food to the grocery cart.

One solution to this dilemma is to stock up on meal stretchers. Foods like rice, beans, potatoes, pasta, and other grains have always formed the core of most food storage plans. First, they are inexpensive foods, like these potato dices. Purchased either from the grocery store or in large multi-pound packages, it’s a lot of food that will go a long way in your meals. If you add just 1 cup of rice to a pot of soup, the expense is just a few cents. This is probably why some of my Nana’s recipes contained elbow macaroni. Just cook up a little ground beef, add some onion, a can of tomatoes, seasonings — and then double the amount of food in the pot with macaroni! During the Great Depression days, as I wrote about here, this was a common and necessary practice. Most of the macaroni in my pantry is in large #10 cans. The larger size provides lots of servings and the metal can provides an optimal storage container.

These meal stretchers also add a lot of calories. Now, for many of us, calories are something to be avoided but consider what life is like during a long-term power outage. Folks who have lived for days and weeks following a hurricane or Superstorm Sandy had to do without modern electrical conveniences that typically make our lives easier. We burn far fewer calories when machines do our laundry, wash our dishes, and help us in so many other ways. Without them, there’s more physical labor and stress. Thus the need for more calories.

I’ve heard stories of financially strapped moms learning that company is coming over and quickly adding a meal stretcher or two to their dinners. A scoop of homemade chili over a cup or two of white rice, stretches the pot of chili at least another few servings. One Facebook reader recently told me how she cooked bulgur wheat with beef bouillon until it was tender and then added it to some of her soups and chili. She said it had a similar consistency to ground beef. Classic meal stretcher!

One other advantage to most meal stretchers is that they are easy to store and have long shelf lives, with the exception of pasta. Grains, rice, dehydrated or freeze dried potatoes, and beans all have exceptionally long shelf lives, which means they retain most, if not all, of their flavor, nutrients, texture, and color over a long period of time. Stored in a cool, dark, and dry location, they will last for 20 or more years. Pasta, on the other hand, is a little more finicky when it comes to long term storage, but still, we’re talking about a good 8-10 years or more shelf life and worthy of including in your food storage pantry.

Not just for homemade recipes

Although I use meal stretchers primarily in my from-scratchrecipes, they can also be helpful with just-add-water meals. This Hearty Vegetable Chicken Soup mix could easily be stretched with the addition of rice or small pasta. Augason Farm’s Southwest Chili Mix can be stretched with any number of stretchers — more beans, bulgar wheat, or macaroni for Chili Mac.

This is also a good strategy for increasing the number of calories. One complaint many of us have with “survival food” meals is that they usually don’t contain enough calories per serving. That is easilysolved, again, with the magic of meal stretchers.

If you have pouches, cans, or buckets of instant meals, give some thought as to how you might stretch them if you ever really needed to make a 3-months-supply of food last 4 months or longer.

Some downsides to meal stretchers

There are just a few negative points about storing meal stretchers. First, they can attract insects. If you’re planning on storing them for many years, you’ll want to protect them by adding food safe diatomaceous earth to the container. Here’s some information about diatomaceous earth, if you haven’t heard of it before, and these instructions will help you know exactly how to add it to your food for pest control.

One other method for pest control is to put tightly sealed containers of food in the freezer for several days. This kills any microscopic insect eggs that could be present. I do this and also add the appropriate size of oxygen absorber, which deprives insects and their eggs of oxygen, insuring their doom.

Most store-bought packages of things like rice, beans, and pasta are made from very flimsy plastic or cardboard. In both cases,the foods will have to be repackaged to extend their shelf lives. Here are instructions for doing that. It isn’t a complicated process. It just takes a little time.

A reality of modern American life is the prevalence of gluten sensitivities and other food allergies. If this applies to you or anyone in your family, then wheat and anything made from wheat will be on the “Do Not Buy!” list. Instead, stock up on varieties of beans and rice. Stocking up on large quantities of gluten-free pasta is probably not going to be practical.

Wheat and beans, in particular, can be rough on digestive systems that aren’t used to them, so in a crisis, be prepared to deal with tummy troubles for a few days.

Stocking up on meal stretchers is a very smart strategy for any family’s food storage pantry.

Food Storage Smarts Stock Up On Meal Stretchers via The Survival Mom

Quick! Grab my newest book, 99 cents!

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Emergency Evacuations 225x303Just through the end of National Preparedness Month, my newest book, Emergency Evacuations: Get Out Fast When it Matters Mostis only 99 cents on Kindle.

This book is a short, entertaining read with checklists, real life stories, and even help for families with special needs loved ones. In an emergency, no one should be left behind, and I’ll help you figure out how to do that. I’ve also provided you with a list of more than a dozen options for bug out locations when you don’t have one and how to keep the little ones entertained when you’re stuck somewhere, far from home.

If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry. Just download the Kindle app either to your smartphone or your computer, and you can read directly from there. Lately, that’s how I’ve been doing all my Kindle reading — directly from my phone.

You may be someone who just prefers actual books printed on paper! If that’s the case, the paperback version is just $8.99.

Here are the links you’ll need:

Buy the book for 99 cents and download: http://amzn.to/2cwSaIn

Download the Kindle app to your computer (PC)

Download the Kindle app to your Mac

Kindle app for Android smartphones

Kindle app for Apple products

I hope you aren’t ever in a scenario that forces you from the safety of your home, but if you are, I know this book will give you the information and tools to get out fast when it matters most!

This discount ends at midnight on September 30.

P.S. You really MUST have a copy of my family survival manual, Survival Mom. It’s more than 300 pages of helpful tips for preparing for emergencies of all kinds — and, it’s a fun read!


20+ Foods that must be re-packaged for long-term storage and how to repackage them

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Best Of the survival momFood storage has been a major topic on this blog from the very beginning. This article is one of the most popular and most read for it’s practical advice for storing specific foods. Use this National Preparedness Month to get your own food storage pantry ready for the next big emergency.

Tutorial for20+ Foods that must be(3)As a follow-up to my blog post about which foods you shouldn’t plan on storing long-term, here’s a list of foods typically found at grocery stores that can be stored but must be repackaged. I go into much greater detail with food storage in my book, but here’s what you need to know about repackaging food.

Keep in mind, that by repackaging these foods you will also be protecting them from oxygen, pests, and humidity, three of the five enemies of food storage. (The other 2 are heat and light.)

  • Raisins and other dried fruit
  • Oatmeal
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Any type of cookie or cracker
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Bread crumbs
  • Cornmeal
  • Candy
  • Pancake mix (Sometimes these are packaged directly inside the cardboard box without any type of inner plastic bag.)
  • Pasta, rice, and potato convenience mixes, such as Rice-a-Roni, Pasta-Roni, instant potatoes, scalloped potato mixes, etc. (These may either have microscopic insect eggs inside the package already and/or be invaded by insects and rodents from the outside.)
  • Tea bags (Repackage for best flavor and longest possible shelf life.)
  • Dried, instant milk (If not already in a sealed can.)
  • Spices and herbs packaged in plastic bags
  • Shortening (Pack it into canning jars and then seal using a vacuum sealer.)
  • Chocolate chips, baking chips of any flavor
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Sugar, brown sugar and powdered sugar
  • Any type of mix to make bread, cornbread, pizza dough, etc.
  • Most anything else that is packaged in flimsy plastic bags and/or cardboard. This type of packaging is not intended for long-term storage, but that doesn’t mean the food inside can’t have a longer shelf life if repackaged correctly.

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Repackaging with a vacuum packing machine

A vacuum packing machine, such as the Food Saver is my own preferred method of repackaging small to moderate amounts of food. These machines can be found on eBay and Craigslist at very affordable prices. Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Cabela’s carry them as well.

Pour the food into one of the plastic bags suitable for your machine and follow the machine’s instructions for vacuum sealing the bag. Use a Sharpie to mark the date sealed on the outside as well as the name of the food. (“Golden raisins, June 21, 2013”)

If a food can be easily crushed, such as cookies or crackers, place them in a large canning jar and seal it with your machine and a jar lid attachment. This is very convenient and gives long term results. If you want to store shortening, pack it into a canning jar, place the lid on top, cover with the jar sealer and seal it. Here is more information from the Food Saver company.

All the foods on my list can be packaged in canning jars, but I’ve had problems with using the vacuum sealer with very powdery foods, such as flour. Storing food in canning jars is especially handy if you are storing food for just 1 or 2 persons or cannot lift heavy buckets and large mylar bags.

This video shows how to seal foods in canning jars.

Some foods with sharp edges, such as pasta, can wear through the plastic storage bag. To avoid this you can seal the food and then place it in a second sealing bag and seal a second time or place it first in a zip-loc bag (do not seal) and then into the food storage bag. The machine will suck the air out of both bags, sealing them shut at the same time.

Use food safe plastic buckets

Yes, the big plastic bucket — a staple in many a prepper/survivalist pantry. These buckets are popular because they can hold a very large amount of food, making many smaller containers  unnecessary. The plastic protects food from light, and although rodents and some insects can chew their way through the bucket to the food, that takes some time, and hopefully, you’ve pest-proofed your pantry!

It’s easy to obtain 5 gallon buckets, but smaller sizes may be harder to come by. Grocery store bakeries buy things like frostings and fillings in food safe buckets and those are smaller. Often they will sell used buckets and may even give them away for free.

The biggest downside to the 5 gallon bucket is its weight. I cannot easily lift one of these when it’s filled with food. Dragging it along the ground is about all I can manage. And, once the bucket is opened, you’ll have to plan on using the food inside within a reasonable amount of time, say 6 months or so if storage conditions are optimal, or reseal the bucket. Many people solve this problem simply by repackaging smaller amounts of food, such as using a one gallon mylar bag, along with an oxygen absorber, and then filling up buckets with the small packages.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to protect the food in an opened bucket from pests and deterioration caused by heat and humidity. I recommend using Gamma Seal lids to make it easier to open and close buckets. They will also help to keep pests out of the food.

I’ve written about storing food in buckets with more details here.

Add oxygen absorbers to extend shelf life

Pour your food into a canning jar, mylar bag or a food-safe bucket of an appropriate size. Just before sealing with the lid, drop in oxygen absorbers according to this chart:

100 cc absorber            32-ounce canning jar

300 cc                             #10 can

300 cc                              1 gallon container

1500 cc                            5 gallon container

For more detailed  instructions, read this. Oxygen absorbers are available on Amazon, from food storage retail stores, and I’ve even seen them in Winco grocery stores.

I also use empty and sanitized 2-liter soda bottles for things like rice and oats and add a 100 cc absorber just before capping the bottle.

Keep mind that as you open the package of absorbers, they start absorbing oxygen. You’ll know this is happening because they get hot. Quickly place the required number of absorbers in each container with the food and then store the remaining absorbers in a canning jar. (The lid of a canning jar gives a much tighter seal than other jars.)

The process of vacuum sealing using a Food Saver removes most of the oxygen that exists inside the bag. This will prolong the shelf life of those foods. However, over time I’ve found that air can and does leak into the sealed bags. When storing these vacuum sealed bags, do check on them at least once a year to see if any have refilled with air, and if so, open the bag and reseal.

A word about dry pack canning for long term storage food

Dry pack, or oven, canning is a process that involves pouring DRY food into canning jars, heating the jars, and then sealing them with lids and rings.

To be very clear, dry/oven canning is not the same as traditional canning, which uses a water bath or pressure canner. It’s simply heating up dry foods in canning jars and then closing them with seals and lids.

Since this article was first posted, I received a number of questions about dry canning, sometimes called oven canning. At first, the method sounded like an inexpensive way to repackage dry foods but with quite a bit of research, I haven’t come up with any true advantages and there are a couple of reasons to avoid this method.

From my research, it seems like the only advantages to this process is possibly killing insect eggs with the heat and that it doesn’t require the expense of a Food Saver.

A much better way to insure insect eggs are killed is by placing tightly sealed containers of food in the freezer for at least a week.

Heating these jars in the oven does not remove oxygen, which is a necessary step in prolonging shelf life. Storing any food in glass jars continues to allow the food to be affected by light, which also deteriorates food. (Store filled glass jars in boxes, under beds, and in any container that doesn’t allow in light for longest possible shelf life.)

The possibility of glass breakage exists since canning jars are designed to be heated in wet environments, such as a hot water bath, and not in a dry oven. Canning jars are made from tempered glass, which is designed to break into hundreds of fairly harmless little particles, not shards. However, to be on the safe side, it’s best to use canning jars for their original purpose only.

How dangerous is dry/oven canning? If only dry foods, such as flour or oats are involved, I’d say the risk of a glass jar exploding in the oven is very slight. Bacterial growth in such foods is negligible as long as no moisture is present. Some nutrients will be lost due to the application of heat, but dangerous? In my many hours of research, I’m not convinced, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to use this method, either! All it seems to do is heat up the food, maybe kill insect eggs, but little else.

The previous repackaging methods I’ve listed are far easier and more effective in lengthening the shelf life of food, which is the main point of this activity in the first place!

New to food storage and want to learn more? Check these out…

52 Weeks Savings Plan: Give this a try and have an extra $1378 by the end of the year!

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Best Of the survival mom

If I’m going to post the best and most popular blog articles, I have to include this one. It launched a very popular Facebook group page and an entire month-by-month series of money saving articles. National Preparedness Month may not seem like a natural fit for a money-saving article, but with no money at all, it’s hard to get fully prepared.

Jar full of money on white background

I spotted this ingenious and simple savings plan* on Facebook, posted it on my wall, and it went viral with 3,074 likes and 4,230 shares within a couple of days. I’ve never seen anything like it. Obviously, this plan hit a nerve with a large number of people who know they need to save, want to save, but are dealing with the reality of tight budgets.

On many calendars, each week is numbered, beginning with Week #1: January 1-7.  On this 52 weeks savings plan, you save the amount of dollars that corresponds to that week’s number. If one week you find yourself with extra cash, add it to the pot. You’ll end up with more than the $1378 total by the end of December or you’ll have created a bit of a padding for weeks that don’t have any extra cash left over. The 52 Weeks Savings Plan is highly versatile. You can begin with Week 52 in January, or start on whichever week is easiest for you.

Print out this chart or make your own and check off each week as you save. If there are other members in the family with an income, encourage them to do the same. A family with 2 breadwinners could end up with a grand total of $2756, and that’s no small-potatoes! *I have no idea who originally created this chart, but I thank them!52 week savings plan

UPDATE: Since this was posted, readers have made some really great suggestions

1. Get the whole family involved. Discuss how you’ll spend the savings, give some to charity, etc. and then post a progress chart. Kids who earn money for odd jobs, babysitting, and the like can contribute, so everyone learns how to save and then gets to share in the rewards!

2. The last half of the savings plan can be pretty pricey per week. If that’s too much for you right now, go through weeks 1-26 twice. You’ll still end up with a nice balance at the end.

3. Others have suggested starting with Week 52 at the beginning of the year so the larger savings can be set aside at a time of year when holiday expenses aren’t an issue.

For more help following the 52 Weeks Savings Plan…

Follow along with a special series of monthly sales, tailored specifically to the needs and interests of Survival Moms and their families. Check out these examples:

April discounts

May bargains

June discounts and sales

Retailers typically offer the same types of sales each month, year after year, so these articles continue to have value and important info for bargain hunters!

Join other Survival Moms in our very active 52 Week Savings Club on Facebook! 1625 members and growing!

Read, “10 Ways to Make the 52 Weeks Savings Plan Work For You” — even more creative ideas!

21 Things to Look For Every Time You Go To a Yard Sale or Thrift Store

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Best Of the survival mom

I should have known that anything related to both prepping and saving money would be popular! This article from the archives has been read close to 300,000 times! So, in honor of National Preparedness Month, I bring you…

yard sale thrift store

Sterling silver flatware

Even if you can only afford to buy a spoon or a fork at a time, sterling silver is known to have antimicrobial properties. Some people believe that simply using silver flatware as everyday eating utensils can ward off harmful microbes.  Typically, a single piece of silver, such as a spoon, will run about $50.  Buy from reputable sellers, such as established estate sale agents and thrift stores.

Survival related reference books

Peruse Amazon lists such as this one and become familiar with titles, authors, and subject areas.  Books about homesteading, gardening skills, primitive camping, wilderness survival, and so much more are very often found for just a couple of dollars, or less.  Other books to look for: Boy Scout manuals, Foxfire books, and issues of Backwoods Home magazines and anthologies.

Grain mill

A good mill can run upwards of $300 and more, but it’s not uncommon to find them in yard sales and thrift stores.  Familiarize yourself with good brand names, ask to test the mill with actual wheat (if possible), but otherwise, I’ve found mills in very good condition for less than $50. One of my favorites and the #1 manual grain mill I recommend, is the Wondermill Junior. You may not find it at a yard sale, but then again, who knows?

Camping equipment

Good quality tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, lanterns, cots, etc. are often sold at very low prices by people who thought camping was a great idea, tried it once or twice, and decided to stick with hotels!  Their loss is your gain!

Good quality knives

Look for brand names such as K-Bar,  Cold Steel, and Gerber and know how to spot quality.  A Swiss Army Knife is also a good find and you can never go wrong with the Mora brand for a low price, all purpose knife — if you need to buy one.

Homeschooling supplies

In a crisis, you may end up being your children’s teacher.  Workbooks, classic literature, flash cards, math manipulatives, textbooks, and even school supplies are very often for sale by homeschoolers who are moving up a grade or have decided to liquidate their stockpile of school supplies.

Winter wear

I once picked up a super heavy duty men’s winter coat for ten dollars.  I was thrilled because it looks like it’s never been worn and came in a dry cleaner’s bag.  Look for snow boots, winter gloves, and other pieces of winter wear, and if you have kids, buy this clothing in a size or two larger for future winters.


Work boots, riding boots, gardening boots, mucking boots, military boots, motorcycle boots, cowboy boots, hiking boots, desert boots — who knew there were so many different kinds of boots?  Check for quality construction and material as well as wear and tear.  When it comes to taking care of your feet, always go for quality.

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There’s just something about old tools from the 40’s and 50’s that beats the heck out of today’s “Made in China” label.  Some sellers are savvy to the higher quality of their tools and may ask a bit more, but in the long run, it will be worth it.

Battery-operated appliances

I get a lot of questions about survival following an EMP or long-term power outage.  If you find battery powered fans, important appliances, and other tools, buy them, just to be ready for a power-down scenario.  Be sure to stock up on the appropriate batteries as well. Students in our Preppers University who purchased battery powered fans for the first time, claim it’s the smartest purchase they ever made — so these, you may not find at  yard sales!

Food dehydrator

No need to be a snob about this.  I still use the inexpensive American Harvest dehydrator I bought a few years ago on Craigslist.  I spent $30 and got extra trays, fruit leather trays, and even a couple of screen trays.

Fishing equipment

I’ve seen top-quality fishing poles, nets, enormous collections of flies, rods, reels, you name it.  If part of your survival plan is to go fishing for food, estate and yard sales are prime sources for supplies.

Emergency supplies

I’ve picked up emergency radios, lanterns, backpacks, water purification tablets, and paracord.  Most of what I have in my Vehicle Emergency Kit was found at these sales.  By the way, here’s a tip: often the best survival related supplies will be found out in the garage, if you’re attending an estate sale.

Tough kids clothing

Believe it or not, when my son was quite young, I discovered that Gymboree made the toughest jeans on the market.  I don’t believe he ever wore a hole through the knees of his Gymboree jeans.  Kids are notoriously tough on clothes, so when you’re looking at second hand clothing, go for brands and fabrics that will stand up to serious wear and tear.  Buy them in larger sizes, so you’ll be ready for growth spurts.

Canning jars and supplies

Look for Ball brand jars in all sizes.  You can always buy the lids and rims at a grocery store or on Amazon.  Also look for things like a magnetic lid lifter, funnel, jar tongs, and large pots.  It would be a good idea to know prices of new canning supplies.  Once I was at an estate sale, found a nice large water bath canning pot, but when I checked the price on Amazon, the yard sale price was higher!

Manual kitchen and household tools

Do you have a manual egg beater?  A flour sifter?  Enough manual can openers?  A manual meat grinder?  I’ve seen all of these and more at estate and yard sales.  During a long-term power outage, you’ll be glad to have them!

Cast iron cookware

Guess where I picked up my two best cast iron skillets?  Yep, at garage sales! I recommend frying pans in 2 or 3 different sizes, a couple of Dutch ovens in different sizes, a griddle, and then whatever other shapes and sizes you care to add to your collection, such as this biscuit pan!


Specifically look for cookbooks that provide recipes for outdoor cooking, canning, Dutch oven cooking, and cooking with basic ingredients. Collecting old cookbooks is an enjoyable and rewarding hobby.

Good quality gardening tools and supplies

Often, in urban and suburban settings, gardening is a fad that comes and goes.  You will likely find everything you need for your garden just by shopping yard sales and Goodwill.

First aid and medical supplies

Boxes of surgical gloves, bandages, butterfly strips, surgical scissors, sterile gauze and entire well-equipped first aid kits are sold at bargain prices.  Once I even saw an old Army first aid kit with a snake-bite kit and ammonia inhalants, circa 1955!  I prefer estate sales, and very often, the owner of the home was taken care of by a visiting nurse service.  I’ve found massive amounts of medical supplies in just these types of sales.  Don’t worry, I didn’t buy everything!  I left some for you!

Hunting supplies and firearms

In some yard/garage sales, you just might get lucky and spot hunting rifles and even handguns for sale.  If you see lots of hunting related items, quietly ask the homeowner if he/she also has firearms for sale.  There are plenty of other hunting supplies out there, though, including gun cleaning kits and decoys.  If you hit the right yard sale, you might feel like you’re in Cabela’s!

Print out a simplified version of this list here.

32 Survival Skills Your Child Should Know and Be Able to Do ASAP!

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Best Of the survival mom

In recognition of National Preparedness Month and to allow me a bit of vacation time, I’m pulling from the archives the most popular blog posts, ever. This one has been read over half a million times!

32 Survival Skills your child should know and be able to do asap. Great list of boredom busters! | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comKnowledge is something that takes time to develop, so we need to start teaching the next generation now.  In case God forbid, our children are left to fend for themselves or we are injured or even just to make your family more apt to survive, every child must learn these survival skills so they can pull their own weight and contribute as much as they can.

It’s not just physical survival we need to teach them but mental, emotional, and spiritual survival as well. If your family learns now to be a well oiled machine, you will be more likely to survive any type of collapse.

  1. Grow vegetables from seeds. This isn’t the easiest skill to master and you’ll need expert advice.
  2. Have local edible and medicinal plant foraging skills. This book is a must-have for foraging beginners.
  3. Knowledge of dietary needs and how to meet them using wild plants and game
  4. Make a fire and know fire safety
  5. Cook on an open fire
  6. Open a can of food with and without can opener (rub can lid ridge on cement and then pry open with knife)
  7. Be able to tell if food is too spoiled to eat
  8. How to safely use a knife
  9. How to shoot a sling shot
  10. How to hunt small game with snares, traps and sling shot
  11. How to fish and hunt, using  a bow and gun when old enough
  12. How to clean fish and wild game
  13. Find water and identify if it’s safe to drink
  14. Filter and boil water to drink
  15. Basic first aid
  16. Basic hygiene practices
  17. Find or build a shelter in the wilderness
  18. How to stay warm, cool, and dry in the elements
  19. How, why and when to stay hidden
  20. Self defense
  21. How to make a basic weapon and how to use it
  22. Be able to run and walk a good distance and be in generally good shape
  23. How to climb a tree to get away from predators, get directional bearings, and hunt
  24. How to read a map and use a compass
  25. How to read the sky for directions, time and approaching bad weather
  26. Know where family and friends live if they need to find them
  27. How to sew so they can mend clothing or any fabric and even make things such as bags or scrap quilts
  28. How to barter and trade (Kids naturally do this with their toys so teach them at garage sales.)
  29. How to be responsible for themselves and to be aware of their surroundings at all times
  30. Have a natural curiosity and good problem solving skills
  31. Be hard working and a self starter and a family helper not a complainer!
  32. Have a strong faith in God (morals, memorize Bible verses, prayers, songs, and have a hope for heaven). Ultimately, everyone reaches a point in which their physical, mental, and emotional abilities are completely taxed. Spiritual survival can make the difference between giving up and finding strength from somewhere to hang in there, just one day at a time.

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How do your kids stack up? For more kid-friendly skills lists, check these out:


“American Blackout” Tips & Tricks for Survival

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Best Of the survival mom

In honor of National Preparedness Month, here’s a look back at a popular NatGeo special from 2013.

american blackout
When it first aired in 2013, NatGeo’s survival show, American Blackout, was a hot topic around the country. It definitely caught the attention of non-preppers from coast to coast. More recently, Ted Koppell wrote about the strong possibility of cyberterrorism taking out our power grid in his book, Lights Out. In our current fragile economy with unrest in so many different sectors, the last thing we need is a long-term, widespread blackout.

You may have read One Second After or Light’s Out, the novel by David Crawford, and had more than one or two panic attacks, but what have you done to prepare for this worst case scenario and are your survival priorities in their proper order? How about getting started with these tips for preparing for a winter power outage:

  • With winter coming, a heat source that will keep you and your family warm enough to survive should be a top concern. This heater is highly rated and runs on propane.
  • Even on the coldest nights, you’ll need some ventilation if you’re burning wood in something other than a fireplace or wood-burning stove. You must have ventilation such as a window cracked a couple of inches if you’re using propane, kerosene,and butane.
  • Know your fuel’s dangers and limitations and have plenty stored. Butane, for example, freezes and can’t be used when temps dip below the freezing point. Wood requires several months, at least, to season. Propane is an excellent choice as a safe and can be stored very long-term.
  • Just as important as multiple heat sources is closing off the entire house except for the one or two rooms you’ll be living in. When the grid is down, it’s not feasible or reasonable to expect that you’ll be heating (or cooling, when summer comes) an entire house. Plan on living in the kitchen, if it’s large enough, or maybe the kitchen and a single adjoining room. Put up tarps and blankets in doorways to keep out as much cold air as possible. Putting up a tent for sleeping in is another smart idea for coping with very cold temperatures.
  • You’ll need sources of ambient and focused light. It’s easy to say that you’ll just wake up with the roosters and go to sleep when the sun goes down, but that will probably not be very practical. You do need light sources. This is the perfect time to stock up on high quality small solar chargers, solar batteries, and the lanterns and flashlights that use them. Also check out the Paqlite for an ambient light that doesn’t require batteries, ever. I have a few and keep them in the car, my purse, and in Bug Out Bags.
  • Once you have a plan to stay warm and have light sources, water is another very critical element. If you live in a cold part of the country, consider storing larger containers of water indoors to avoid freezing. Water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon, making even a 10-gallon container mighty hard to move once it’s in place. Have a reliable water filter like this one if your water source becomes tainted or you must use rainfall or water from lakes or streams.
  • Might sound crazy, but if you have small livestock and you’ll be living in sub-zero temps, you just might have to move them indoors if they are to survive the winter. And, if they don’t survive, you may not survive if you’re counting on them as a food source.
  • Food storage is a given and is usually the easiest piece to put into place, either for a power grid failure or a winter storm. Do store your food indoors, unless you want to end up with frozen cans and jars of food that may crack when frozen. This resource page will provide details for getting food storage in place.
  • Once the living area is warm enough, there’s a bit of light, and everyone has had a bit to eat and drink, then what? Store anything and everything that provide entertainment. I’m thinking really thick books with great story lines,such as those written by J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Dickens, and dozens of other classics. Lots and lots of writing/drawing paper, pencils, “How to Draw” books, and hours of music in whatever format is easy to store and can be shielded from the effects of EMP with a simple Faraday cage.

Top priorities? Warmth, light, water, food, entertainment, and a form of communication. We are so used to getting information as it happens, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which we might not know what’s happening across town, much less hundreds of miles away.

When, or if, the grid goes down, cell phone service and landlines will follow, along with TV and radio. It’s possible that some old-school HAM radios may be operational before anything else. For sure, reliable information will become as valuable as gold.

Helpful resources for you:

american blackout

Could you stomach these Great Depression meals?

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Best Of the survival mom

In honor of National Preparedness Month and to give me a couple of week’s vacation time, I’m reposting the absolute, most popular articles of all time, beginning with this article. It has been read a whopping 731,000 times!

Great Depression Meals

With all the talk about food storage and growing our own food, I did a little digging around to find out what some people ate during America’s Great Depression of the 1930’s.  Surprisingly, a few of these were made by my mother and grandmother, traditions, I’m sure, from a more frugal era.  Cookbooks like this one, document many of these meals. I still have a soft spot for Chipped Beef on Toast!  How many of these are familiar to you, and do you have any others to add to the list?

Milk toast

Chipped beef on toast

Cucumber and mustard sandwiches

Mayonnaise sandwiches

Ketchup sandwiches

Hot milk and rice



Potato soup – water base, not milk

Dandelion salad

Lard sandwiches

Bacon grease sandwiches

Sugar sandwiches

Hot dogs and baked beans

Road kill

One eyed Sam – piece of bread with an easy over egg in the center

Oatmeal mixed with lard

Fried potatoes and hot dogs

Onion sandwich – slices of onion between bread

Tomato gravy and biscuits

Deep fried chicken skin

Cornbread in milk

Gravy and bread – as a main dish

Toast with mashed potatoes on top with gravy

Creamed corn on toast

Corn mush with milk for breakfast, fried corn mush for dinner

Squirrel — Here are how-to instructions for field dressing a squirrel.

Rice in milk with some sugar


Fried potato peel sandwiches

Banana slices with powdered sugar and milk

Corn pone — Check out this recipe.

Boiled cabbage

Hamburger mixed with oatmeal

American cheese sandwich: ‘American’ cheese was invented because it was cheap to make, and didn’t require refrigeration that many people who lived during this era didn’t have.

Tomato gravy on rice

Toast with milk gravy

Water fried pancakes

Chicken feet in broth

Fried bologna

Warm canned tomatoes with bread

Butter and sugar sandwiches

Fried potato and bread cubes

Bean soup

Runny eggs with grits

Butter and grits with sugar and milk

Baked apples

Sliced boiled pork liver on buttered toast (slice liver with potato peeler)

Corn meal mush

Spaghetti with tomato juice and navy beans

Whatever fish or game you could catch/hunt

Tomato sandwiches

Hard boiled eggs in white sauce over rice

Spam and noodles with cream of mushroom soup

Rag soup: spinach, broth and lots of macaroni

Garbanzo beans fried in chicken fat or lard, salted, and eaten cold

Popcorn with milk and sugar – ate it like cereal

Lessons learned from this list?  Stock up on ingredients for bread, including buckets of wheat.  Bread, in some form, is one of the main ingredients for many of these meals.  Second, know how to make different types of bread.  Next, have chickens around as a source for meat and eggs, and if possible, have a cow or goat for milk.  Know how to make many different foods from scratch.

Another lesson is to have a garden that will provide at least some fresh produce, and plant fruit trees and bushes. You may be interested in this article with tips for Planning an Edible Landscape. Finally, don’t waste anything, even chicken feet!

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Check out these Great Depression cookbooks:

Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression

Hard Times Cookbook

Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression

You may want to download my free ebook, Switch From Store-Bought to Homemade, with dozens of from-scratch recipes for foods, cleaning products, and personal care products.


10 Unusual Foods You Should Have in Your Pantry

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10 Unusual foods you should have in your pantry! | www.TheSurvivalMom.comModern Americans probably have more food choices than any other group in the history of the planet Earth. I was told about a Japanese student who went to an American grocery store for cereal. Seeing the selection in the aisle was so overwhelming they went home without it that day.

For people used to such plenty and variety, beans and rice alone is clearly not a long-term menu plan. But keeping that much variety in one home (or even one store!) is not realistic. Worse yet, it can be hard to figure out a way to store some of our “regular” foods for the long-term so we can maintain a semi-normal diet in an emergency.

So, what “unusual” foods should you consider adding to your pantry? The products listed below are all shelf-stable, meaning they do not need to be refrigerated.

Survival Mom’s Top 10 Unusual Food Storage Foods

1. Shortening powder 

This product is a sure-fire way of having shortening on hand for all your baking without having to worry about it going rancid. It’s a necessity for making pie crusts and biscuits. Even more important, you can sprinkle some in a hot skillet, and when it melts, you can pan fry! What a concept! Shortening powder is available from Augason Farms.

2. Powdered peanut butter

Peanut butter has an amazingly long shelf life, even after it’s been opened, but powdered peanut butter is still very useful. Every morning I add a tablespoon or so to my protein drink. It adds all the flavor and nutrition of peanuts without any of the fat found in peanut butter. You can even get it with chocolate already mixed in!

3. Butter powder

This product won’t give you exactly the same flavor of butter and it doesn’t quite melt, but it’s still a handy addition to your pantry. Once reconstituted and chilled, it hardens and has the same consistency of refrigerated butter. You can add it to any recipe that calls for butter — just increase the liquid by a small amount.

4. Tomato powder

The first time I read about this product, I said, “Huh??” Now I think it’s indispensable because it’s a cost-effective way of having tomato paste and tomato sauce on demand and save vast amounts of space at the same time, and it’s easy enough to make yourself.

5. TVP (your choice of flavors)

I know Textured Vegetable Protein isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it comes in handy when you want to add a little more protein to a casserole or soup. Just a handful can add the flavor of chicken or taco meat (a little can go a long way), and you can’t beat the price.

6. Freeze-dried cheese

You can still enjoy cheese enchiladas while fending off zombies with this great product! I first sampled FD cheddar cheese a few years ago and was amazed by how beautifully it melts.

7. Powdered cheese 

When you buy this in bulk, you have the main ingredient (besides macaroni) for mac-and-cheese but also cheese sauces for veggies, casseroles, and the all-important survival food, nachos!

8. Freeze-dried grapes

Yes, grapes. Canned grapes have never quite caught on (ewwww!), dehydrated grapes are raisins, but FD grapes have the same color, shape, size and flavor as fresh. They’re just crunchy, and they make a great, healthy snack. Once opened, though, they will absorb moisture in the air and go from crunchy to sticky and chewy. You may want to repackage them in canning jars to retain the crunchy texture.

9. Sour cream powder

Now, this won’t give you that wonderfully cool dollop you’ve come to expect, but when you make a dish that calls for sour cream, this product does just fine. Add some to mashed potatoes or a creamy casserole, and you’ll never know the difference.

10. Freeze-dried cottage cheese

This was one of the first ‘survival’ foods we purchased. Because we had young kids, we wanted to make sure we had plenty of Vitamin D-dense foods. It sounds strange, but it’s actually quite good when it’s reconstituted and chilled. If the grid is down and you want homemade lasagna, that shouldn’t be a problem with this and freeze-dried mozzarella cheese on hand!

These 10 unusual foods will go a long way toward letting your family diet stay closer to normal in a disaster.

This article has been updated from the original version published on November 4, 2010.

Welcome to National Preparedness Month! Now Get Ready!

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 National Prepareness Month

Every September is the official National Preparedness Month in the U.S. If you don’t have one of these special dates in your country, you can either establish one for yourself and your family or begin a letter-writing and petition campaign to convince  your government that one is needed.

Over the years of encouraging people to get prepared for everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios, I’ve always known that most people give the idea lip service. Knowing the importance of “getting prepped” is not very different from knowing that it’s better to be a healthy weight, eat right, drink lot of water, and exercise. We all KNOW that stuff. We just don’t all DO it.

And right there is what makes the difference between a family who is ready to quickly and quietly load up the car with supplies, the kids, and the pets and hightail it away from danger to one who either scrambles at the last minute, deep in the black zone and forgetting what to pack, like these folks did during the huge Fort MacMurray fires. Worse are those who are totally unaware until there IS  no escape. Honestly? Most people fall into those 2 latter categories.

I don’t want even one of my readers to be caught unaware by fire, flood, extreme weather, or any other type of disaster. (Take my 5-question Threat Assessment Quiz here to figure out what are the most likely dangers you face.) This blog is chock full of over 1700 articles, my family survival manual, Survival Momshould be on every family’s bookshelf (no kidding!), and my second book, Emergency Evacuations: Get Out Fast When it Matters Most, details exactly what, when, where, and how you should evacuate from a dangerous situation.

I’ve worked hard over the years to provide you with the very best advice I could, but this last spring, I realized it hasn’t been enough. Most of you know you should prep, you read about prepping, maybe put a few things in place, and then get distracted by life, as I did myself earlier this year. When  that happens, you still are not ready, especially for a true worst case scenario. And what could those be? We don’t have to look very far to see examples all over the world — and please don’t lapse into normalcy bias and think, “It could never happen here.”

  • Venezuela, once the most prosperous country in South America, utterly collapses in economic turmoil, with empty food shelves, food riots, and desperate people.
  • Random terrorist attacks in places most would have considered safe.
  • A rising tide of anger and unrest, resulting in extreme and violent riots that sometimes last for days.
  • A government that can be slow to respond to true and desperate calamities, such as the flooding in Louisiana this summer. Did you realize this disaster is the third worst to hit our country after Katrina and Hurricane Sandy? I’ll bet you didn’t, since only scant attention was given in mainstream media. Federal response was described as “pitiful”.

I’m determined to never be one of the hungry, desperate moms lining up, or rioting!, just to get some bottled water and a bag of groceries. I’m far too independent-minded for that, and I’ll bet you are, too.

The Prepping Intensive

So, here’s what I’ve done so that you and your family are prepared for all types of scenarios. I created a 10-week live course, complete with actual classes, assignments, assessments, and…accountability! If you’re serious about getting yourself, your family, and your home prepped, you can’t afford to NOT take this class.

The timing is perfect! Not only is it the start of National Preparedness Month but the kids, and grandkids, are back in school. It really is the perfect time to direct your attention to something of vital and life-saving importance — and, you can teach what you learn to your other family members and friends.

The course covers just about everything:

  • Water and sanitation
  • A complete food storage education
  • Power outage readiness
  • Natural disaster preparedness
  • Survival when you’re away from home
  • Health and fitness for survival
  • Setting up a survival retreat no matter where you are
  • Worst case scenarios

We’ve covered all the bases but then we’ve brought in some amazing guest speakers for you:

We have more speakers scheduled, but you get the idea. If you’re wondering if you’ll be able to attend all these classes, each one is recorded and will be available to you, 24/7.

Here’s the Sneak Peek

I don’t expect you to plunk down  your registration fee without actually seeing what you’re buying. I’ve written too many articles about the importance of frugal living to want you to do that! So, if you would like to see a sample of one of our training modules, here you go!

And, we’ve expanded just a bit to offer more than a 10 week course (which you have access to for a year!). We’ve also created a separate Student Center for members only. This separate site has a forum, webinar recording archive, a Book of the Month Club (all prepper/apocalyptic/survival books — I promise!), and coming this fall, mini-courses you can take any time, 24/7. You get a 1-year membership to the Student Center with your class registration!

Check out the Student Center at this Sneak Peek link. Since this is all so new, we have a lot of room to grow, with lots of ideas for things that will help you get fully prepped. Just talking and thinking about it will never help you and your family survive.

We start on 9/11

Someone asked me if our start date of September 11, was significant in any way. The answer is no! We want you to take this course and take action, every single week, and then take a break just before Thanksgiving and the holiday season arrive.

However, this doesn’t give you a whole lot of time to sign up. Registration closes for good on September 18.

Click Here to Register

If you’ve ever wished  you could just TALK with someone about prepping and ask all your crazy questions, get expert advice on your own special circumstances — this was designed for you. Not only am I very active in the course, teaching a handful of classes myself, but Daisy Luther, author, blogger, and homesteader, is right there, too.

We want to help you get fully prepared for an uncertain future. Join our group of students today and start working through our Student Orientation to be ready for launch day, September 11. This is the perfect time for this!


*The course is fully detailed at this link, Preppers University.

P.S. If you can’t join us this time around, we have another session starting in January. Sign up here to get updates whenever new classes are starting AND to get our Prepping To Do List every month!

Keep an Eye on Extreme Weather With the Storm App

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storm appI don’t think it’s odd at all that I have multiple weather apps on my phone or that one of my favorite gifts ever was an indoor/outdoor thermometer.  I’m a total weather junkie. I track rainfall amounts and brag to our relatives in Phoenix when our daily amount of precipitation exceeds their annual rainfall!

When I learned about a new severe weather app, I figured it was a sign from heaven and I downloaded it immediately. Storm by Weather Underground is the ultimate weather app and lives up to its claim, “The best app for the worst weather.”

Storm came in handy yesterday when my 14 year old son was set to go kayaking with his buddy. He was ready with extra water, sunblock, a snack, and a hat – and then Mom checked her Storm app. What I saw on the high resolution radar was pretty ugly. Splotches of pink, red, and orange indicated that a line of severe weather was headed our way and approaching quickly. I could tell from the high resolution radar that my son would be well out on the river when the storm hit and far from help.

I had to break the news to him that I was putting the kibosh on the kayak trip and just a short time later, when the massive storm hit, he and his friend were ensconced in our family room with hot pizza. Storm’s advance storm tracking saved the day.

IMG_0040In our neck of the woods, we take weather pretty seriously. Just this year, rainfall in Texas has hit record amounts in many areas. Homes have been flooded, businesses permanently destroyed, and as much as I enjoy my life as an amateur meteorologist, weather can get pretty serious, quickly. It’s important to stay ahead of the storm so you can prepare for it.

The Storm app has a number of features you’ll be impressed with. It’s designed to track extreme weather, in particular, so if you live in tornado or hurricane country or have to deal with any type of storms, you’ll appreciate these:

  • Global Radar, which accesses data from the national network of NEXRAD radar sites.
  • Lightning View, which tracks lightning strikes within 100 miles around (Continental U.S. only)
  • A detailed analysis of impending storms – you know where they’re coming from and where they’re headed.
  • A customizable map screen with highest resolution radar
  • “Information galore,” according to my husband.

Storm provides weather information and data at levels suitable for everyone. If all you really want to know is, “Should I wear a jacket or take an umbrella today?” Storm has you covered with daily and hourly forecasts. But if you’re a weather junkie like me, you can delve deeply into extensive charts that detail things like cloud cover, dewpoint, and “feels like” temperatures.

With the occasional tornado warning, I’ll be able to get storm tracks, radar, and up to the minute watches and warnings.

This is the most detailed weather app I’ve ever used.

I have it downloaded on my Android phone as well as on my mini iPad. I love having massive amounts of weather info handy on my smartphone, but I have to admit, the experience on my larger mini iPad is glorious. Check out this screenshot:storm app

Learn all about Storm here and enjoy their glorious weather photography on Instagram.

Weather junkies, rejoice! And now go download Storm!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Weather Underground. The opinions and text are all mine.

storm app 2

Flood – Fire – Evacuation

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Two of the most common reasons to evacuate your home, workplace, or any other safe area are flood and fire. Right now, both are being delivered in spades, and perhaps, your family is being affected by an emergency evacuation.

In the Los Angeles area, nearly 90,000 people are being evacuated due to the Blue Cut wildfire that is virtually out of control, still. Where do 90,000 people go? That’s the first question that crosses my mind. Are they all headed to hotels? The homes of friends or family? How many have nowhere to go and can’t afford even a single night in a hotel?

Louisiana residents have been slammed this month with massive amounts of rainfall. They’ve been forced from their homes, too, and at least 10,000 of them have had no choice but to stay in official shelters. Vehicles, ruined gardens, family heirlooms, brand new school supplies — gone.

Flood and fire all too often mean a complete loss of everything. Can you imagine losing all the contents of your home? Take a quick scan right now and think, what if I lost all of this? That must be one of the most devastating feelings anyone can experience — to watch as your home fills with water or is consumed by flames.

Yes, we care!

At this point, those of us who are safe and sound can help by providing financial assistance directly to organizations that have reputations for managing their money well and quickly getting on the ground to meet the needs of those affected by the disaster.

Organizations like American Red Cross definitely have trained personnel and funding, but sometimes it’s just the little random church or scout group who load up pickups and trailers with cases of bottled water, blankets, baby formula, tents, tarps, and rope, and form a rag-tag caravan to more quickly deliver the goods where they’re needed most. They hit the road using their own debit cards along the way at gas stations and fast food joints, neither expecting nor wanting reimbursement.

That’s the America I know and that I grew up in. We’re there for each other when it’s needed most, and what you look like or what you believe is immaterial.

Here are a few links to organizations that have good reputations for managing their funds wisely and being able to provide the most essential help, quickly:

Samaritan’s Purse

Salvation Army

American Red Cross in Louisiana — Local chapters of American Red Cross are quite good at mobilizing quickly and utilizing local resources.

Operation Blessing

Second Harvest Food Bank

And what about FEMA and the massive amount of money they have at their disposal? I just heard that FEMA is finally getting to Louisiana to provide help. A day late and a dollar short.

Get out quick when it matters most

Unfortunately, once we donate that $10 or whatever we can afford, there’s not a whole lot more to do except step back and give serious thought to, “What if that happened to us?”

Could you and everyone in your home, pets included, get out fast when it matters most? Have you thought ahead to where you would go and do you have some funds set aside to pay for that hotel room or those meals at Subway? You must take your pets with you — please don’t even consider leaving them to their lonely and fearful fate. It’s easy enough to put together a pet emergency kit, like the one detailed in this article. Even a couple of large ziplocs loaded with dry dog or cat food and a plastic bowl for water is better than nothing.

When I wrote my latest book, Emergency Evacuation: Get Out Fast When It Matters Most, these are the scenarios I had in mind. It’s a quick read. Probably won’t take you more than a couple of hours, but I loaded it up with the kind of help, advice, and tools that I would want if my family ever had to vamoose out of our home. I also knew that my readers would have pets, babies, toddlers, and even handicapped loved ones to consider — so I made sure to include advice for those special situations as well. Get it in Kindle if you want to start reading and preparing and don’t want to wait for the paperback to arrive.

Probably the most important thing you can do right now is to make plans to evacuate. This isn’t a time for perfection. Man, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen into the trap of not taking care of something important because I had this idea in my head of how it should be and I didn’t have the money, the time, whatever to do it perfectly. Fill those ziplocs with pet food. Buy a cheap case of water bottles and have it near the back door ready to grab. Go through your drawers and closets and put together an outfit or two for each person and put them in The Evacuation Suitcase, The Evacuation Bucket, or whatever else you have handy.

This isn’t time for coordinated outfits or dithering over which suitcase to use. Just get ready! You can always go back and make improvements, but if you ever have to get out fast, you may not have time to do any of this. That’s how urgently some of these emergencies occur.

I hope I’ve given you a huge nudge to put basic plans in place. I hope you, me, none of us ever have to experience the terror and bewilderment of an emergency evacuation, but if we do, the plans and supplies that are in place will make it less traumatic.

Want to really get prepped?

Join me for 10 full weeks of Prepping Intensive, starting in September. I’ll be giving you weekly prepping assignments, challenges, assessments, and even check in with you on Sunday nights to listen to your progress. You’ll get to hear from prepping and survival experts like Jim Cobb, herbalist Cat Ellis, Fernando Aguirre, Michael Snyder, Arthur T. Bradley, and Selco in a small group setting where you can get your questions answered. You’ll have their attention and my attention, as our goal is to help you and your family get solidly prepared in 10 weeks.

There’s a lot more I have planned for Prepping Intensive students, and you can read all about it here, but the important thing is to sign up to receive a notice when registration opens, because we’ll have a Flash Sale in that email that won’t be available anywhere else.

Whatever you do, take just one action today and each day, so you aren’t caught offguard.




16 Ways to Find Free Food

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find free foodBeing a Survival Mom means you have a plan to feed your kids, no matter what, whether by having some food storage, growing as much as you can, or even finding free food.

That means not just if SHTF, but also if you experience unexpected, personal events that leave you actually wondering about your next meal, as happened when this couple hit rock bottom. For example, with one of my children, maternity leave lasted twice as long as I planned. We had savings for the expected time, but found ourselves in a financially tight spot when I had to stay out of work longer than we anticipated.

Life happens. Before it happens to you and you find your bank account empty and your pantry bare, here are a few ideas on where to find free food. Whether they will work for you or not, may depend on local regulations.

Find free food with these tips

  • Pet-sit. I recently asked my neighbors to watch our backyard chickens for our vacation in exchange for any eggs. They ended up with 8 dozen eggs!  If you don’t know of anyone with farm animals, check with your local 4-H or poultry groups.
  • Side of the road. In our metro area, it’s acceptable to leave items you don’t want at your curb for others to pick up. Sometimes it’s a dresser or kids’ bikes, but frequently, people leave out extra garden produce like zucchini and tomatoes. If you see something, though, stop immediately and grab it. It probably won’t be there on your way home later.
  • Community events. If you live at an apartment complex or you have a neighborhood association, watch for community events involving food. Often these will be pizza parties or cook-outs funded by member dues. Or see if you have a friend who might live where these sorts of events occur, and go as their guest.
  • Serve at a catered event. Longer term, finding a job as an on-call catering server could net you more than just an hourly wage. In my experience, employees often get to take home leftover food from weddings or other events. Or volunteer to help at friends’ weddings or graduation parties. One family sent me home with enough leftover catered food to feed my family for 2 full meals after I helped with their son’s graduation party.
  • Craigslist. Check ads for extra garden produce, or post an ad yourself saying you’ll take extras. Just be careful meeting people—I usually like to meet people at public places, like parking lots with video surveillance.
  • Gleaning. This is the old fashioned word for “picking up leftovers after harvest.”  If you live near farms or community gardens, get permission to go through after the harvest. It might be some hide and seek, but with a little effort, you could probably find dropped produce, extra fruit still on the vine, or discarded imperfect veggies.
  • Church food pantry. Many churches keep food pantries. Call around to houses of worship in your area and ask. Often there are no strings attached in regards to membership, but usually there’s a limit such as visiting once a month per household or something similar.
  • Community garden.In our city, we have at least one community garden where you earn a share of the produce by volunteering 2 hours a week. Check in your area, or with local CSA’s to see if you can exchange time for food. Even better, you will have helped grow it yourself!
  • Hotel breakfasts.If you are traveling, or for any other reason find yourself staying at a hotel with an included breakfast, consider taking a little extra to eat later. For example, a yogurt and an apple would make a morning snack. Just be reasonable.
  • Grocery stores. Make friends with your local produce, dairy, and meat market managers. Perishable foods can’t be sold after their expiration date. I’ve gotten half gallons of milk for free or nearly free (25 cents!) on that expiration date. Produce might be sorted in the morning, whereas meat might have to be tossed at the end of a business day. If you know what days or times to show up, you might be able to collect a whole meal’s worth!
  • Foraging. If the idea of foraging seems daunting, then just think of this as a “snack” category. Pick raspberries along the bike trail, or the mulberries hanging over the sidewalk. Food is food, and if times are bad, every little bit–especially fresh fruits and greens–will make a difference. Always stick with plants you know–NEVER eat anything you aren’t sure about. You’ll find important foraging safety guidelines here.
  • Freewill donation meals. Find the Pancake Breakfasts or Spaghetti Dinners in your community that ask for a freewill donation. Usually, they are fundraisers for the local fire department or Lions club. But if you’re in a tight spot, you could take advantage of these meals. Pay what you can, then when times are better, you could make a more substantial donation.
  • Feed bread. Our local bakery outlet store will set large garbage bags of past-date bread as feed bread for farm animals. You are asked to sign a form saying it’s not for human consumption, but if times are really bad, you may find it worth going through to see if anything is still edible.
  • Trade or barter. Offer your skills in exchange for a meal. Help a friend move and get pizza. Help your brother in law build a garage and stay for dinner. Help your co-worker fix his computer at home and let him pay for take-out. This is a win-win for everyone. I’ve found this book about bartering to have valuable tips for getting started.
  • Your own pantry or food storage. This is why you have food storage, right? If you need it, by all means, use it! But it will go much, much further if you can stretch it with some of the above ideas.
  • Bountiful Baskets or another food co-op system. If you volunteer to show up early and help out, any food that is left over or unclaimed is divided among the volunteers.

If you find yourself on hard times, you’ll probably need to rely on a combination of ideas and avenues to feed your family. But stay calm, think outside the box, and no one in your house needs to go to bed hungry.

What other ideas do you have?

find free food


21 Ways to Keep Your Cool When Everything Hits the Fan

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21 Ways to Keep Your Cool When Everything Hits the Fan via The Survival Mom

Stress happens. Whether at work or school, some days you’re pushed to the edge, you feel the tension all over your body, and you aren’t sure whether to punch something or cry. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had bad days. But it’s not the end of the world (yet), and there are plenty of wholesome and pleasant ways to center yourself again. Here’s a list of 21 ways to keep your cool.

  1. Diffuse a soothing blend of essential oils. Of course you’ve heard the saying, “Take time to stop and smell the roses,” but did you know that Rose essential oil is even more potent for relaxation than Lavender oil? Diffusing a blend of Rose, Lemon, and Lavender oil will chill you out, lift your mood, and make your house smell awesome.
  2. Stick your nose in the coffee pot. Coffee usually gets a bad rap, since the caffeine can cause stress for some people, but simply smelling freshly brewed coffee or warm coffee grounds can reduce stress. I switched to a French press a while back and will never again use a traditional coffee maker. If you’re worried how you’ll make coffee in a power outage, you need one, too!
  3. Listen to calming music. Whatever genre helps you find your zen, be it country or Celtic harp, listening to about 30-45 minutes of music with a slow tempo can clear your mind and relax your muscles.
  4. Read. Yes, put aside your computer, tablet, or cell phone, and take an hour or so to read something on paper. There is something very stressful and anxiety-triggering about being in front of a screen 24/7, and it is not good for your brain to be constantly switching from app to app, or scrolling through a dozen pictures at a time. Reading requires focus, and patience, and helps your mind to center itself after being stretched a thousand different ways.
  5. Color. I know, right? Crazy, but not only are adult coloring books are actually a huge thing right now, it’s also National Coloring Book Day on August 2! A good quality coloring book and some fancy Prismacolor colored markers and pencils, and you’re groovy. Many adults, both men and women, are enjoying the revival of this old-time hobby from their childhoods. (If you want something really special, Johanna Basford’s coloring books are amazing!! I’m working my way through “Lost Ocean“.)
  6. Drink some tea. Rose tea, chamomile tea, passionflower, or kava kava are all natural, caffeine free, soothing beverages that are perfect for bedtime or an afternoon chill session. For me, there’s nothing like sitting in a cozy corner of the couch with a cup of hot tea, slightly sweetened, and then finished off with just a tablespoon or two of heavy cream or almond milk. If you’re not into tea, just drink plenty of water, keeping your body hydrated and flushing out toxins.
  7. Go for a run. Put on some tennis shoes and pop outside to soak up some vitamin C and get your heart working. Many studies have shown that physical exercise of any sort can boost your mood. It also requires focus and mental discipline. Plus, who knows when you may need to run for your life? May as well get in some training for that.
  8. Clean up. You know that closet you’ve been meaning to go through for, like, ever? After a stressful day, it might finally be time to do that. Working with your hands, sorting, and seeing a tidy end result is rewarding and therapeutic. Turn on some music, podcast, or audiobook, and go to town! An organized space is soothing.
  9. Cook or bake something challenging. The same principle as cleaning up, but with more of a creative outlet and a delicious end result. Try a new recipe, technique, or cuisine! And it doesn’t even have to be duck de l’orange, your dish can be cheap and easy as a casserole or soup.
  10. Make a fruit salad to go with your dinner. Bananas, oranges, mangoes, and blueberries are examples of healthy fruits that contain stress-relieving, mood-boosting qualities. Plus, who doesn’t just like to say, “banana”? Even that will make you smile.
  11. Pick up a handicraft. Knitting, embroidery, whittling, you name it, just choose something that you enjoy, then plop into your comfiest chair and take your sweet time on it. Repetitive motion helps calm nerves.
  12. Pet your dog. Or your guinea pig. Or your cat, if she’ll let you (mine won’t). You don’t really need a study to be done to know that cuddling your furbaby, while whispering sweet nothings in their floppy ears as you rub their noggins, can just make everything magically okay in your life.
  13. Journal. Did you know that people who journal regularly actually live longer than people who don’t? Sit down during either breakfast or dinner and write about anything upsetting you or that you’re excited about.
  14. Get it all on paper. David Allen, in his book, Getting Things Donesays that writing down every. Single. Thing. On your mind helps you focus on the tasks at hand, and also helps prioritize what needs to be done. This is a good practice to add to your bedtime ritual. What you’re gonna have for breakfast, that guy you need to call for such-and-such a thing, your worries about the kids, a reminder to clear out your inbox, packing an emergency kit, etc. Just get it out on paper.
  15. Play. What?? First coloring, now playing? Yes! Some purposeless but fun and silly activity that you used to do as a kid, whether it’s tag, hide-n-seek, homemade play-dough, or finger painting. It’s a great way to unwind, and laughter is the best medicine.
  16. Put a pencil between your teeth. No, it’s not just to make you look dumb. Holding the pencil between your teeth forces your mouth into a smile. Staying like this for two minutes can fool your mind into producing your happy hormones. Who knew?
  17. Work on your survival breathing. Special forces operatives use this technique to steady themselves when in stressful situations. It lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and the extra oxygen clears your mind.
  18. Try acupressure. Gently squeeze the part of your hand between your thumb and index finger for thirty seconds, then switch sides. This has been shown to relieve tension in your upper body by about 30%.
  19. Clean up. Not your house this time, but you. Even if you showered that morning, grab some soap in a scent that makes you go, “Mmmmm“, like this bar of luxury soap, and let the hot water and steam relax your muscles. Then, ditch your work clothes and put on your comfiest clothing items.
  20. Spend time with family. Did you know that children whose families regularly ate together for meals were more stable emotionally throughout their lives? That same benefit can extend to parents, as well. So sit down, relax, and talk about your day with the people you love most. Here’s a fun idea for family conversation starters, if you need it.
  21. Spend time alone. When in doubt, kick everyone out. Just kidding, but truly, no one will blame you if you just need a break from society.

By the way, every one of these ideas come in handy during normal, humdrum stressful days but also keep them in mind for the severe crisis. No one is at their best and makes the best decisions when under high levels of duress. If everything hits the fan someday, you’ll need some time every now and then to unwind.

21 Ways to Keep Your Cool When Everything Hits the Fan via The Survival Mom

Define Your Disaster

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define your disasterUntil I seriously became a prepper, the most likely disasters in my life involved my nail tech quitting or my husband insisting on a homemade dinner! How times have changed. Now when I think of disasters, I’m thinking more along the lines of The End of Days scenarios with an unsettling feeling they could happen now, in my lifetime.

For which disaster, or disasters, should I prepare? These days of hard, uncertain times it’s a little like playing the odds. Hmmmmm, should I prepare for a nuclear attack? If so, I’ll need an enormous amount of sheet plastic, duct tape, and I read somewhere that you’re better protected from fall-out if you have a few feet of earth piled up against your outside walls. Our HOA would just love that!

But, really, is my very first concern a nuclear attack? No. The odds are much better for a dramatic increase in crime and riots in certain parts of our city or peaceful protests that suddenly become very violent. Even better odds favor a continued deep decline in our incomes, higher taxes, and possibly losing our home to foreclosure. It just makes sense to, first, define the most likely disasters, and then prepare for each as best you can. A comprehensive survival guide like this one makes this easy.

Define your disaster with this first step

Since the catastrophic event most likely to affect us is loss of income, that’s where my focus has been. Some time ago, I turned our spare room into a pantry, and my goal has been to store at least six month’s worth of food. This translates into a 6 month margin in which I wouldn’t have to spend money on groceries. I’ve also fought hard to save every penny I can.

If we lived in an area prone to earthquakes, that would be near the top of my priorities. Urban dwellers may put personal and home protection at the top of their lists.

If you’ve been into the survival mode for a while, life changes over time and so will your concerns and priorities. It’s worth taking a second look, now, to see if your prepping needs adjusting.

Here are a few possible disasters to consider.  Which ones are most likely to affect you?

Natural disasters — Mother Nature at her worst: wildfires, floods, earthquakes, drought, hurricanes, and more

Personal disastersloss of job, decreased work hours, illness or injury affecting your ability to work, your mother-in-law moving in

Nuclear events — including, but not limited to, an electromagnetic pulse and actual mushroom clouds

Terrorist attacks — use your imagination. Terrorists certainly do!

Social unrestriots, car-jackings, increased violent crimes of all types, prison escapes

War of any kind

Biological catastrophe — spread of diseases, either purposely or the natural spread of something contagious like Ebola

After thinking it over and talking with my husband, here is the list I wrote for our family.

1.  Loss of income
2.  Loss of home
3.  An event of any kind that occurs while my family members are scattered at different locations around the city
4.  Violent crime against my children, my husband, or myself
5.  Flooding
6.  Massive failure of the power grid

With some planning and prepping, you realize you have more control over how these events will affect your family than you might think. The key is to identify likely calamities and then take action. Fortunately, prepping for one event gives you a head start prepping for additional events, thus saving money and time.

Simply taking this step puts you light years ahead of millions of people, and I believe it will give you and your family some peace of mind no matter what happens.

What is Number One on your list?

Take this 5-Question Threat Assessment Quiz

Click here to download and print this assessment. This will walk you through the steps of identifying which disasters are top priority for you and then narrow them down to which one you should prepare for first. By the way, this assessment is just one feature offered at Preppers University. Click here to learn more and sign up for our next course!


Start getting prepared by defining the disaster that most threatens you and your family. 5-question quiz included.


Survival Mom DIY: No-Recipe Casseroles!

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food storage casserolesCasseroles. Love them or hate them, they are definitely a comfort food to many and a super-convenient main dish to others. I grew up on casseroles, from the classic Tuna Noodle Casserole to my Nana’s Shlumgum, so I’m a fan.

The casserole can become the best friend to any busy mom or dad, and if you’ve been working on building a food storage pantry, you’ll fall in love with the idea of a No-Recipe Casserole. This is more of a concept than a recipe with specific measurements or even ingredients, and for that reason, it’s the perfect food storage companion.

The building blocks of any casserole

Just about any casserole recipe you find is made up of 5-7 of these building blocks:

  1. A base
  2. Protein
  3. Carbohydrate/starch
  4. Vegetables
  5. Additional liquid
  6. Seasonings
  7. A topping of some sort

Once you get these 7 components in your head, along with a few more bits of information, you’re equipped to rummage through your freezer, fridge, and pantry shelves to produce a casserole totally unique in the world! And that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Let’s take a closer look at these 7 building blocks and the individual ingredients for each:

A base

The base of a casserole acts as a binding agent to hold all the other ingredients together. The base of your casserole could be as simple as a can of “Cream of…” soup. Cream of mushroom soup is a classic casserole ingredient, but if you don’t want to use a processed food product, try making your own “Cream of…”soup mix and use that. Another option is leftover gravy or a couple of gravy packets. For added creaminess, add 2-3 tablespoons of cream cheese or 1/2 of sour cream.

A source of protein

There are many wonderful meat-free casseroles recipes, but if your casserole is going to be a hearty main dish, you should add a protein, even if it’s just a can of rinsed beans. Any meat or poultry will do, and, in fact, try combining different types of meat, especially if you have leftovers. The secret to my amazing chili is that I combine ground beef, cooked bacon, chopped kielbasa — almost any meat I have, and the results are delicious. You can do the same with this No-Recipe Casserole. Chopped/shredded chicken or turkey, ground beef, tuna, venison — it’s all good. Be sure the meat is cooked and drained before adding it to your base, and figure on 12-16 ounces or so.

I’ve found that freeze-dried meats work wonderfully in casseroles. They are already cooked and diced and only need to be rehydrated. I use freeze-dried diced chicken in my family’s very favorite Sonoran Enchilada Casserole, and you would never know that chicken wasn’t freshly cooked. Home-canned chicken or beef is another option for quickly adding a source of protein.


The beauty of adding a carbohydrate to your casserole is that it will increase the amount of calories and the amount of food at the same time. Extra calories are an important consideration in times of emergency, since these typically require more physical activity from us, and just by adding a handful of rice or macaroni, a recipe that would have normally served 6 people, can suddenly serve 8 or 10.

Carbs that work successfully in a casserole are white and brown rice, macaroni and rotini pasta, wheat berries, quinoa, and beans. These should all be cooked first to an al dente finish (they’ll continue cooking just a bit once added to the casserole and heated), although uncooked rice can be added as long as extra water or broth is also added to the casserole.


It’s with veggies that your unique casserole really begins to take shape. The veggies you add can be frozen, canned (rinse first), dehydrated, or freeze-dried. Add whatever veggies your family likes, although it’s definitely permissable to sneak a little something in for extra nutrition, such as this dehydrated spinach. If anyone asks, tell them the green stuff is just “herbs”.

I typically add chopped onion, celery, and bell peppers to many of my dishes. If you’re adding these to a casserole, which only needs to bake for 20-30 minutes, these veggies will need to be sauteed in a bit of butter or a healthy oil before being added to the casserole dish. This is true of most other fresh veggies.

Diced potatoes can act as a meal stretcher, a veggie, and a carbohydrate. Keep a can of dehydrated potato dices handy just for this purpose. They are wonderfully affordable.

Additional liquid

At this point, you will need to add more liquid. Assess the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and veggies and then add extra liquid. This can be water, beef or chicken broth, a vegetable broth, or milk. Salsa is another nice addition if you want your casserole to have a Southwest flavor.

If you’re adding uncooked rice, you’ll need to add even more liquid. Typically, the ratio for uncooked rice and liquid is about 1 cup of rice to 1 1/2 cups liquid.


The classic casserole will be seasoned with salt, pepper, and a few dashes of garlic powder. Additional herbs, such as basil and parsley add some flavor, as will a teaspoon or two of dehydrated minced onion, if your newly invented recipe doesn’t contain onion otherwise.

A teaspoon of basil and oregano will give your casserole a bit of an Italian flavor, and a Southwest flair comes easy with a teaspoon of chili powder, a dash of cayenne, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cumin.


When I was a kid, it was the casserole topping that was always my favorite. Come to think of it, it still is! The toppings on  your No-Recipe Casseroles can be crushed potato chips, Fritos, Doritos, or crackers of any kind. It could be 1/4 to 1/2 cup of bread crumbs mixed with a 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt, and sauteed in a frying pan with 2 Tablespoons of butter. Grated cheese is another excellent topping and if your casserole screams “Italian!”, by all means, add a grating of Parmesan cheese as a topping, on its own or mixed with the buttery breadcrumb mixture.

Learning to cook without a recipe is an excellent preparedness skill. It challenges you to use whatever you happen to have on hand, without relying on that quick trip to the grocery store, which inevitably turns into a far more expensive outing. It’s also a great way to incorporate new “food storage” foods into your family’s diet, without them ever knowing, and a casserole is the ideal dish to cook in a solar oven.

As you begin creating your own No-Recipe Casseroles, you’ll want to do one final thing: jot down the ingredients of any casserole that is truly outstanding. If your family cleans their plates and then asks for seconds, you have a winner, and if you’re like me and your memory is a little iffy, you’ll be glad to have a written record of that new family favorite.

Try this no-recipe method with soup, too! Here’s my tutorial.

food storage casseroles

15 Ways to Make Camping With Kids Easier Than You Think

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15 Ways to Make Camping With Kids Easier Than You Think via The Survival Mom

We don’t believe in waiting until our kids are “old enough” to camp.

My first child was 6 months old when we set up the tent in the back yard and spent the night. My second child was 10 months old when we managed to pick the hottest weekend of the entire year to go to a campground. And my youngest was a co-sleeping, nursing infant when we packed her off to the campground with her siblings.

Camping with kids is not easy. But it’s also fun and probably not as hard as most people think. Camping is a sure-fire way to find quality family time. It’s a chance to really put your skills to the test, like fire starting and plant identification, and teach those skills to your kids. And it can be a chance for character-building, too, as you solve problems together, engage in campsite diplomacy, and make do with what you have with you.

Anyway, I’ve learned a few things over the last decade of tent camping with children. Maybe my trial and error method can give you a head start with your learning curve.

      • Use disposable everything!  Even if you use cloth diapers, washcloths, and real plates at home, camping with kids is the time to go disposable. Pack paper towels, disposable diapers, plastic grocery sacks (for trash or wet clothes), and paper plates with plastic utensils. You’ll have enough to do without washing extra camp dishes or trying to haul home extra laundry.
      • Pack extra clothes. Pack even more clothes per child than you think you’ll need. If you do this camping thing right, they’ll need them!
      • Keep a change of shoes and clothes in the car. Reserve at least an extra pair of shoes and a full change of clothes for each member of the family in your vehicle. More than once, we’ve had the unexpected rain storm, or discovered a new leak in our tent. If nothing else happens, at least you’ll have clean clothes for the ride home. And you avoid a major car cleaning chore after your adventure, too!
      • Familiarize your children with your tent ahead of time. Each year before the first camping trip, we set up the tents in the front yard to play in them, or even have at least one nap time in the tents. If you’re planning to use a Pack N Play for an infant or toddler, make sure they’re used to sleeping in it, too.
      • Do a backyard trial run. If it’s the first time camping for your family, or for the newest famiy members, consider “camping” in your own backyard for a night or two before hitting the actual campground. This will give you an even better idea of what to pack and plan for.
      • Plan familiar foods. Camping with kids is probably not the time to try that fancy 17-ingredient recipe. Stick with hot dogs and hamburgers or something equally easy. If you’d like to expand your camping menu, try to add just 1 new recipe each trip.
      • Go with a group. If you can, coordinate your camping experience with another family, or several! We’ve found that having lots of adults around makes it very easy to keep track of all the kids, share meal responsibility, and even give each mom and dad a bit of time together.  For example, each family could take a meal to cook and host for the entire group. Camping with a group also helps to keep the kids occupied—they have friends to go bike riding or exploring together.
      • Pack a battery-powered fan. If you choose to ignore all the rest of the list, at least pack a fan! Not only will it help keep the hot summer air moving, it can also help mask some unfamiliar night noises. A better nights’ sleep will make all your day time experiences much more pleasant.
      • Give them a gift– to use while camping. Depending on your child’s maturity level, consider giving them a tool to use while camping. Even a younger child could probably handle a very small pocket knife. Older children could learn to use fire-starters, tent peg mallets, or even hatchets. And if they own it, they’re much more excited about using it to help out.
      • Establish clear rules around the fire. This is the one area where we are very strict. No running around the fire. No lighting sticks on fire and waving them. And have a containment plan for any mobile infants or toddlers. To date, we’ve never had any serious fire-related injuries, and we plan to keep it that way.
      • Have a wide-ranging first aid kit. We use a plastic tackle box as our camp first aid kit. If you un-package items, you can easily fit everything you need for burns, bug bites, scrapes, upset tummies, and allergies. Placing items in zip top baggies will keep them organized and water proof.
      • Don’t do everything. Don’t send the kids off to play while you set up the tent and start the dinner fire. Give everyone a task, such as holding tent poles, or collecting a certain size stick. They won’t learn unless they’re involved, and in the long run, your job gets easier. Just imagine 5 years from now, sitting in your camp chair while the kids set up and get dinner on the fire.  
      • Let the kids get dirty and give them the freedom to explore.  Camping puts you directly in contact with nature, and nature is messy. If the kids are sweaty and muddy at the end of the day, you’ve probably done things right.
      • Teach respect for others campers. Camping etiquette means going around, not through, someone else’s campsite. It also means being aware when riding bikes or playing catch in the road and observing quiet hours at night. And when you’re by the water, be aware of people fishing.
      • Don’t be afraid to pack up early. Last summer, there was a severe line of thunderstorms moving in on our last night. It was just me and 3 kids, so I made the decision to pack it up early and head home. Good thing, because we had severe weather all night long—one of the worst storm systems of the season. You don’t have to prove anything—there’s always next time.

Camping teaches kids survival skills in a fun way. It builds their confidence as they realize how much they know and can do. It gets them away from screens and in touch with nature. And it creates family bonds and life-long memories.

Camping in general gets easier with experience. People give all sorts of excuses why they can’t take kids camping.   “Oh, I’d love to take my kids camping, but not while they’re in diapers!”  But if not now, when? What if you find yourself “camping” someday after an unexpected event? You’ll be glad you practiced now!  Besides, it’s rewarding to hear your kids telling their friends, “We had the BEST time ever camping!”

15 Ways to Make Camping With Kids Easier Than You Think via The Survival Mom


10 Non-Edibles for Your Emergency Stash

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non edibles emergency stash

While not exactly edible, stocking up on these ten items will make everyday life more comfortable, whatever your emergency.


Picture this.  You’ve been in your bunker for three weeks.  Sponge baths are a rare treat.  Then you remember your stash of Secret anti-perspirant.  Ahhhh….. instant morale booster, especially if shared.

Feminine products  
Periods don’t stop for something trivial like a nuclear war.  A six month’s stash of tampons, especially o.b., won’t take up much room, and will greatly improve your quality of life. However, a much better option, by far, is a menstrual cup, such as the Diva Cup that I review here.

Small items for entertainment
Choose multi-use toys and games.  Playing cards or Play-Dough, for example. Yard sales, dollar stores, and thrift shops are all very good places to buy these. They’ll keep kids busy during stressful times and will provide diversions for the adults in the group.

Bar soap

In a pinch it can be used for shampoo and even laundry. Buy a variety of soaps, including some that do not have a lot of extra dye or perfume added. You should also stock up on classic laundry soaps, such as Zote or Fels-Naptha. These are terrific as stain removers and as an ingredient for homemade laundry detergent.

Zip-Loc bags of all sizes

These can’t be beat for everything from a tooth for the Tooth Fairy to containing nuclear waste, aka dirty diapers.
Rope for a clothesline and clothes pins.  Air-dried laundry smells and feels so clean and crisp.  It may become your preferred method of drying, even after the electricity comes on, and of course there’s the added benefit of being oh-so-Green!

A pack of never-before-opened underwear for each family member

This is something that most folks will overlook in their zeal to stock up on freeze-dried food and ammo, but sooner or later, the kids are going to outgrow theirs and mom and dad will appreciate having a nice, fresh set. Ditto for bras.

Battery-powered CD player & CDs
There’s just something about beautiful music for defusing tension and calming nerves. I put this in the category of “Sanity” when it comes to packing emergency kits and making survival preps at home.

Tylenol PM
Seriously.  Do you really want to be 100% conscious wrapped up in your silver emergency blanket, huddled in the back seat of your mini-van for hours?

Toilet paper

While it’s true you can’t stock up on enough toilet paper to last indefinitely, but you can stock up on a year’s worth. I’ve done it. Use coupons and store sales to bring the price down. Keep track of how many rolls your household uses in a month, multiply by 12, and you’ll know about how many rolls you’ll need. Some have argued in favor of using cloth wipes in lieu of TP, and this isn’t a bad idea in general, but it will require the ability to bring a few gallons of water to a boil at least 2-3 times per week, and then dispose of the resulting “black water” in an area that won’t contaminate ground water or growing, food-bearing plants.

Preparing for natural disasters, nuclear war, complete societal breakdown, doesn’t mean we have to lose our sense of humor. In fact, your sense of humor should be #1 on this list! Don’t ever hunker down in your bunker without it!

This article was originally posted in June, 2009 and has been updated.

non edibles emergency stash (2)

Why Preppers Should Consider Homeschooling

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preppers homeschoolI don’t remember when I first became convinced that homeschooling was the only type of education I wanted for our children. I do know it was long before I ever became pregnant. Now that we’ve finished our eleventh year of homeschooling, I’m more glad than ever of our choice. Homeschooling has been the perfect fit for our prepping family.

The foremost benefit for preppers like us is that homeschooling provides a continuous flow of education in spite of changing circumstances. Any event that would normally disrupt the school year doesn’t have nearly the same impact on homeschoolers. During a time of intense stress and change, a homeschooling family is together, along with the reassurance and the anchor that only parents can provide. This family survival manual will set you up with everything necessary for getting ready for emergencies.

Experienced homeschoolers know that you can “do school” at any time of the day or night. You can fill a backpack and a Kindle with all the curriculum you need and hit the road. School can happen in the waiting room of a hospital, in a Red Cross emergency shelter, or at Grandma’s house for an extended stay.

READ MORE: What if you were forced to homeschool? Could you do it? What might you need to do now to prepare?

It’s the versatility of homeschooling that lured us to this way of life and should everything hit the fan, for whatever reason, it may disrupt our homeschooling for a time, but at least we have the curriculum, supplies, and confidence to continue, even through the high school years.

No relocation trauma

If a family decides to move to another location or has to evacuate for a time, other than losing some time in the moving process, kids can pick up their schooling right where they left off. When we moved from Arizona to Texas, it did take a bit of catching up and a few hours with a math tutor to get my daughter back on track with Algebra, but within weeks, it was as if we’d always lived here and our schooling just continued in spite of the rather large blip.

(Our move didn’t go exactly smoothly, and I wrote about it here.)

The trauma of leaving one school and starting over in another is a non-issue. Our kids didn’t have to face walking into a classroom of strangers and when we landed in our little corner of Texas, little by little, they found their place among homeschoolers. We joined a large group of homeschooling families, which offered a Girls Book Club, a Boys Book Club, papercrafting classes, a homeschool baseball team, horseback riding lessons, a homeschool archery club, a rowing team, rugby, lacrosse,  you name it. Within a short time, it was as if my kids had always lived here.

In case a pandemic hits, homeschooled kids will already be at home, along with their textbooks, computers, and everything else they need for learning. School closings and quarantines will be one less thing to worry about.

Will they be isolated and weird?

If you’re worried about socialization, that homeschooled kids will turn out “weird” and unable to order a cheeseburger at McDonald’s,  I present to you my two children.

My daughter is now a senior in high school and, gasp!, she’s been homeschooled since kindergarten and throughout her high school years. She has taken sewing classes, been on swim teams and in a year-round swim club. She’s tried out cheerleading, took piano lessons, has been in Toastmasters for 3 years, a homeschool drama class, has dissected just about everything a Biology student can dissect and is handy with both a rifle and a handgun. She cooks from scratch, can make her own homemade beauty products, knows how to dehydrate food and can use a Sun Oven.

When she left for church camp this summer, she packed a small emergency kit with her: an emergency blanket, her Swedish fire knife, a Sawyer mini water filter, a multitool and a flashlight. She is confident and in so many ways already ready for college and beyond.

So proud.

My son is now 14. He’s in Civil Air Patrol and focused like a laser on moving up in the ranks. He’s on a rowing team, plays on a homeschool baseball team, and can talk with anyone about anything, anywhere, anytime. In the past, he’s been on an archery team, gone to a shooting skills summer camp, taken horseback riding lessons, and has even made his own forge. I’ve seen him stay calm in situations where I was near panic and have come to rely on him as a strong and steady member of our family.

Just from these bits and pieces of my kids’ homeschooling activities over the years, you can see they’ve had plenty of time to learn practical skills and spend time with people of all ages. They aren’t unique. They are very much typical homeschoolers and ours is the typical homeschool experience.

The false argument, “But what about socialization?”, isn’t an issue, and it never really was. (I don’t happen to think that putting a gaggle of kids who just happen to be the same age in a room together for 9 months is the ultimate in developing well-rounded kids, but maybe that’s just me.)

Both social and practical skills

Our homeschooling has given them the time to develop practical skills, like canning and gardening, that would otherwise be limited by public school hours and homework. For preppers, this is the ideal educational setting: kids are able to learn academic subjects and still have time to explore their own interests and learn skills of self-reliance.

When I was in elementary and high school, decades ago, there were practical skills classes beginning in 7th grade. I learned how to iron, how to bake and cook, and how to use basic hand tools. Hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening, and canning were once a part of everyday life for the majority of Americans. Now, if parents do not teach these skills to their kids, who will? Certainly not the public school system.

DON’T MISS: “Homeschooling: Where Academics & Survival Skills Meet

If you want your kids, to learn practical, life-long skills, it’s up to you. This is where grandparents and extended family can play a huge role. Certainly, among the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others in you family circle, there’s an abundance of knowledge and skills that could die out with that generation. Just yesterday, I was wishing that I had thought to ask my own great-aunts about growing up during the Great Depression.

Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge right in your own backyard and prepare your kids for a future of self-reliance by learning those skills now. Homeschooling helps make this possible because the “school day” is generally much, much shorter than the 7-8 hours spent in public schools, Monday through Friday.

Homeschooling for the tightest budgets

Another reason that preppers should consider homeschooling is because it’s many advantages come with a tiny price tag. In fact, there is a multitude of resources online that are absolutely free.

The curriculum that our family has thoroughly enjoyed over the years is AmblesideOnline. This challenging, 36-week curriculum is completely free and follows the educational philosophy and principles of Charlotte Mason, a British educator who established several schools in the late 1800’s. The website, SimplyCharlotteMason, explains:

The Charlotte Mason method is based on Charlotte’s firm belief that the child is a person and we must educate that whole person, not just his mind. So a Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged: in her words, “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”

AmblesideOnline provides the curriculum, book lists, and dozens of resources — the only expense is the actual books, and many of those are free online and can be found in used bookstores. For many reasons, this curriculum worked out perfectly for my family. When I saw my 11-12 year old daughter reading the original Mary Poppins, the original Peter Pan, and Oliver Twist and then discussing with me the themes of the novels without the need of a textbook or workbook guiding her thoughts and conclusions, well, I was impressed, especially coming from a public school background as a teacher, where so much literature for kids is “bottom of the barrel.” (Captain Underpants, anyone? The mindset of the public school system is that kids just aren’t bright enough to comprehend “hard” books.)

There are dozens of other curricula, though, and if you’re a beginner, you can read through my articles of advice for beginners. The main point is that homeschooling doesn’t have to cost much money at all. In fact, since so many homeschooling families are single-income with mom staying home, you’ll find yourself right at home with families who are also budget-minded and prefer to live simply in order to provide this education for their kids.

A multitude of free homeschooling resources on the web can take the place of more expensive curriculum if need be.

Self-reliant families in homeschool circles

I have found that homeschooling parents are generally eager to share their experiences and offer advice and suggestions, and chances are, there are homeschooling activity groups and co-ops in your area. However, beyond that help, you will find that homeschooling families tend toward self-reliance, and you will likely find other prepper families in these groups.

We’re used to swimming against the flow and are just a little bit rebels at heart, so prepping and homeschooling are a natural fit.

READ MORE: Here is a list of all the homeschooling articles that have appeared here on The Survival Mom.

“Follow your heart”, isn’t always the best advice, but when it comes to homeschooling, I think it’s an excellent guide. If your heart is telling you to, at least, consider homeschooling, there’s no better time to do that than right now.

This article was originally published in June, 2009, and has been updated.

preppers homeschool

The Year I Stopped Prepping and Why I Started Again

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stop preppingI was the first person to become a prepper in my fairly large family. Among my husband’s family and huge extended family, he was the first prepper.

As far as I know, after almost 8 years, we are still the only preppers, with one lone exception.

It’s not something we talk about with anyone. Loved ones on both sides are busy with their own lives, playing computer games, dealing with office politics, and all the thousands of distractions that are a part of daily life for all of us.

For the past year or so, I, too, became a non-prepper.

Yep, The Survival Mom, “Queen of the Preppers”, as I’ve been called, just didn’t prep. If it hadn’t been for my monthly auto-ship from Thrive Life, my food storage pantry would have been neglected completely.

Why? Life got in the way. I took on the task of coordinating a new co-op for homeschooled high school kids, got involved with my kids’ sports activities and driving for hours each week taking them to practices and games. I was busy running the blog and writing about prepping, but in total honesty, prepping became the furthest thing from my mind and I didn’t do any prepping.

There’s a huge difference between reading about survival and preparedness and actually taking action.

You would think that I would have noticed the gathering storm clouds. During that year, the economy did not get better. The political status of our country became more volatile than ever. My small city was surrounded by historic flooding — and there I was, as much of a non-prepper as the average fun-seeker at Disneyland.

Temporary insanity? Possibly.

What kicked me back into gear

Facebook can be a funny thing. I have a love/hate relationship with it most days, but it was a post featuring an interview with author Matt Bracken that reminded me of why I started prepping and why I’d better get back into the game.

For a few years, I have been a fan of Matt. He’s written a number of common sense books and essays about possible collapse scenarios right here in the U.S., and because his thought process is logical and he pays no heed to political correctness, I pay attention when he talks.

I’ve never forgotten his vivid description of a potential scenario in which innocent commuters become trapped by angry rioters in a scenario of economic collapse because it’s one I can easily envision:

Rioters will throw debris such as shopping carts and trash cans into the intersection, causing the more timid drivers to pause. The mobs will swarm the lines of trapped cars once they have stopped. Traffic will be forced into gridlock for blocks in all directions. Drivers and passengers of the wrong ethnic persuasions will be pulled from their vehicles to be beaten, robbed, and in some cases raped and/or killed. It will be hyper-violent and overtly racial mob behavior, on a massive and undeniable basis.

Some of those trapped in their cars will try to drive out of the area, inevitably knocking down MUY (Minority Urban Youths) pedestrians and being trapped by even more outraged MUYs. The commuters will be dragged out of their cars and kicked or beaten to death. Other suburban commuters will try to shoot their way out of the lines of stopped cars, and they will meet the same grim fate once they run out of bullets and room to escape.

The mob will be armed with everything from knives, clubs and pistols to AK-47s. A bloodbath will result. These unlucky drivers and their passengers will suffer horribly, and some of their deaths will be captured on traffic web cameras. Later, these terrible scenes will be released or leaked by sympathetic government insiders and shown by the alternative media, which continue to expand as the traditional media become increasingly irrelevant.

Grim, in the extreme, but as Matt continues developing this scenario, he describes how quickly social media and the use of technology can bring these crowds together and, just as quickly, disperse them, sending them to a different intersection far enough away to elude law enforcement, who arrive too late. You can read his entire essay, “When the Music Stops — How America’s Cities May Explode in Violence.”

Even if he’s just half right…

The riots at recent Trump rallies have made his scenarios even more believable.

So, several weeks ago, when my Facebook newsfeed featured an interview with Matt on the Alex Jones show, I settled down in the corner of my sofa to listen. His observations were pretty much what my gut had started to tell me. The current tumultuous political season is likely to grow worse with demonstrations, riots, and violence becoming more frequent andd extreme, with the status of the U.S. economy teetering on the brink.

As Matt talked, I began to feel again that old “fire in the belly”. An urge to get up and do something — anything to make my family and our home more secure. So, I told my son to go around the house and round up all our flashlights! Yeah, it wasn’t much, but it was a tiny step to begin checking up on all the preps we have in place. We checked the batteries of those flashlights and then made sure every room in the house and each emergency kit (bug out bag) had at least one of them in place.

We next took out our bug out bags and began going through them. My daughter had packed hers last year before she lost a few pounds, and we found that she needed a different change of clothes in a smaller size. My walking shoes needed new shoelaces and snacks we had packed so long ago, just needed to be thrown out and replaced.

It wasn’t so much that the flashlights were a do or die for our future survival and my daughter could have easily worn those too-big clothes. What was important was the change in my own mindset and then, taking action. Starting with small, basic steps clears the way for more small steps, and, ultimately, that’s what prepping is about.

Priorities, priorities

Just about the same time as Matt’s interview attracted my attention, I was able to step away from the co-op that I had helped found. It’s on solid ground now, with some excellent teachers and eager students ready to start classes in the fall. I’m blessed that I was able to help construct something that will impact dozens of young lives, but my role in that venture ended, and, really, the timing was perfect.

Matt wasn’t the only voice I heard that urged me into a new phase of my prepping. Others have contacted me with insights into our economy and political status and their warnings ring true.

So now I’m back. I’m in the phase of evaluating our preps. What are the steps we’ve taken so far? What have we neglected? Have we done too much in one area and not enough in another?

As I’ve gotten back on track, it occurred to me that there must be hundreds of thousands of other preppers who also have seen warning signs. They don’t expect the government, at any level, to come to their rescue in a big enough crisis. They figure they’ll be on their own, whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, or devaluation of the dollar that hits.

And they’re right.

Help is on the way if you’ve stopped prepping

Probably the smartest people right now in America and beyond are those who have realized that it’s their responsibility to have the plans and preps in place to survive. If you’re in that group, congratulations! While much of the world is focused on the drama of the day served with a smile by the mainstream media, you’re focused on learning about water and food storage, growing your own food, and how to not be a victim, if at all possible.

Like me, though, maybe you’ve lost your way. Your good intentions have been neglected because of life, or maybe you forgot why you were prepping in the first place. Maybe you look at your buckets of wheat and Berkey water filter and feel a little guilty because that money could have been spent elsewhere.

You need a nudge to get going again.

Because of my own return to prepping, I wanted to find a way to help others like me, including brand new preppers. The idea of a summer class, kind of like a prepping boot camp, was born and with the help of my friend and fellow blogger, Daisy Luther, The Organic Prepper, we developed 10-weeks of prepping classes we’re calling “Summer Prepping Intensive” (SPI).

This course isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for those who are ready to commit to attending 1 or 2 training webinars a week and then checking in with their fellow preppers in an interactive Sunday Night Check-In. It’s for those who will take the weekly To Do lists and determine to complete as many of the activities as possible. Maybe SPI is for you.

You can learn all about the benefits of becoming a member of SPI at this website, and for about the cost of one fast food meal per week, you’ll have access to everything: Facebook chats, weekly giveaways, printables, article resources, Q&A with experts such as Michael Snyder, Tess Pennington, herbalist Cat Ellis, Fernando Aguirre (FerFAL), NRA instructor Cherie Norton, Dr. Arthur T. Bradley, and more.

It’s a unique program and comes at a great price, $99.

If you’ve wandered away from prepping, for any reason, I encourage you to pause and assess where your time is going. Has the busy-ness of life distracted  you from the need to prepare your home, family, vehicles, and yourself for an uncertain future? You’ll find thousands of resources right here on this blog, but if you need accountability and desire interaction with other preppers and experts, please check out SPI. Latecomers are welcome, but our first session is on Sunday, June 19.

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15 Healthy & Frugal Uses for Witch Hazel GIVEAWAY!

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uses for witch hazelYou know how almost everyone has that one thing they swear by? Sometimes it’s a remedy, or a recipe, or an herb. My great-grandmother used to have a bottle of witch hazel in the medicine cabinet of her tiny mobile home bathroom. Myself, I tend to swear by lavender and rose essential oils for most of my aches and pains. If you have those two things, you will basically live forever. (Kidding.)

However, I may now have to expand my list to three sacred items, and thanks to Nana, this product wasn’t exactly a stranger.

A few weeks ago, I was gifted a big bottle of Dickinson’s Deep Cleansing Astringent, enhanced with witch hazel. I tried it almost as soon as I got home, and I loved how clean and fresh it made my face feel, and it smelled awesome, too! But what really intrigued me was the inclusion of witch hazel in the formula. I hardly even knew what it was, but found that witch hazel is actually a fascinating and versatile medicinal herb.

After much research, I have put together this list of wonderful (and surprising) uses for witch hazel in a variety of ways!

Uses for Witch Hazel

  1. It’s wonderful skin food! It can shrink your pores, reduce acne, and help with oily skin. You can also make your own facial toners, cleansers, and astringents with this herb as a base.
  2. Rub witch hazel into your scalp for a natural dandruff treatment.
  3. Use it as a remedy to reduce spider veins.
  4. Soothe diaper rash in infants. Simply use a cotton ball to apply witch hazel to the affected area. Apply to a very tiny area first and watch for any negative reaction.
  5. Witch hazel can help reduce sunburn. Witch hazel contains anti-inflammatory properties, so applying it will not only soothe your skin, it will also assist in preventing skin peeling.
  6. Drink a tea made with witch hazel to heal a sore throat.
  7. Disinfect open wounds. This can be applied to both people and animals!
  8. Use for tick removal. Not just for pets, but adults and children as well. Putting a few drops of witch hazel on the tick will help to loosen it’s grip on the skin.
  9. Witch hazel can act as a flea repellent. There are several recipes online for using witch hazel to repel fleas from infesting your life.
  10. Makeup remover. Mix up your own natural makeup remover with this herb. It’s ultra frugal, too!
  11. Prevent razor burn with witch hazel!
  12. DIY floor cleaner. I already make my own cleaner for when I mop my kitchen floors, and now I’m definitely going to add witch hazel to the mix next time! The solvents in the witch hazel are great for getting up tough stains and residue.
  13. Homemade natural deodorant. Yep. There are tons and tons of recipes on Pinterst for DIY deodorants with witch hazel, although a spritz of witch hazel on each armpit is effective on its own for many people.
  14. Witch hazel can reduce bruises and swelling. Keep a small bottle in your first aid kit.
  15. Make a bug spray with witch hazel and other essential oils to keep away mosquitoes. If this doesn’t work, witch hazel is also good for reducing the itching and swelling of bug bites.

Any time you can use one product for multiple uses, you are saving money and time. Witch hazel is one of those versatile products that you’ll end up using in more ways that you imagined.

Are you looking for more frugal tips? Check out my other lists!

Win a Dickensen’s Witch Hazel product basket in this quick and easy giveaway!

There’s nothing complicated about this giveaway, but it expires soon! One winner will randomly be selected on Thursday, June 17, and notified via email. That winner must respond within 48 hours or a second winner will be selected. Good luck!
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What Are Your Prepper Limitations?

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prepper limitationsMany years ago I was in an entirely different career in which I managed and trained more than 200 sales reps for a national company. As part of my position, I attended some truly excellent executive training sessions, intended to help me become more efficient and effective.

One principle I learned that I’ve never forgotten is this:

Identify your weaknesses and hire people to do those tasks for you. Concentrate doing what you do best.

Well, I’ve finally figured out how to apply that principle to prepping and dealing with my own prepper limitations: Figure out my strengths as a prepper and look to others to provide the support I need to shore up weaknesses. When I fret over what I don’t have or what I can’t do, prepping begins to look like it’s too hard, takes too much time, or is impossible in my circumstances.

However, anyone can prep, and I do mean anyone. No, not everyone will have the bug out bunker in Idaho, equipped with a year’s worth of food, but that isn’t the best scenario for most people, anyway. I know a very smart, fully prepped single woman in her early 60’s, who lives in a fortified condo! She’s confident she can protect what she has, and when it comes to food and supplies, she has plenty!

So what prepper limitations cause you to feel intimidated or even stall you on your journey to be prepared for everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios? Do any of these sound familiar?

Time limitations

Few of us can truthfully say, “I have way too much time on my hands.” Each of us have exactly 24 hours in a day. Divvy that up between sleep, household chores, a job, caring for kids, running errands, preparing for and cleaning up after meals, take care of pets and other animals, and no, there really isn’t a whole lot of extra time each day!

Another aspect of time limitations when it comes to prepping is feeling as if there is so much prepping to do and you may not be fully prepared when one disaster or another hits.

Skill limitations

Once you venture into the prepper world, you quickly learn that having an extensive skill set is pretty much required. It’s impossible to have too many skills but the problem for many of us is, which are the most important? After all, we don’t want to jeopardize our lives or those of our loved ones because we are missing that One Vital Skill.

“We would all still be alive if only our prepper had known how to ….”

The truth is, no one single person knows all the skills necessary to survive any and all perilous scenarios. The most rugged mountain man living off-grid for decades might find himself at death’s door because he didn’t know how to properly can food.

WHICH SKILLS TO LEARN? Click here to read my exhaustive list of important prepper skills.

Knowledge limitations

Along with skills, knowledge is a key to being prepared. While most knowledge leads to skills, the practical application of know-how, there’s a lot to be said for just having head knowledge. Knowing which foods are best to store, where to pitch a tent, and how to homeschool kids of different ages.

Naturally, no one can ever know everything, and that can be frustrating when it comes to prepping and survival. Do you know enough to survive and, if not,what should you learn first?

Physical limitations

One limitation that affects most every family is that of physical ability. We’ve all experienced a sprained ankle, broken bone, strained back, or some other injury that affected our ability to accomplish everyday tasks. When those limitations are long-term, even permanent, it definitely affects the ability to handle emergencies.

Hearing and vision impairments, chronic illnesses, and even the affects of aging limit what we can do to prep. The fact is, physical strength and energy are needed to be prepared and then to survive.

Financial limitations

Tens of millions of Americans are out of work and families are scrambling to make ends meet. Prepping doesn’t require spending money, but, let’s face it, at some point there are expenses. No, you don’t need an expensive water filter or premium freeze-dried food, but even less expensive options require money.

READ MORE: Faced with financial limitations? Check out my super-frugal tips series:

The “I just don’t want to do it” limitation

Finally, there may be something you know you need to do, but you just don’t want to do it! Maybe you loathe canning (I’m not a big fan, myself), maybe you’ve always hated fishing, or maybe, you just feel lazy! That Grab-n-Go Binder? You’re in no mood to track down dozens of different documents that are scattered all over the house and in the attic.

There are probably important prepping steps you know you should take but you’ve procrastinated.

You just don’t want to do it!

Fair enough, but it’s a limitation all the same.

Pick a solution to your prepper limitations

Regardless of which limitation, or limitations, are your biggest hurdles, the work-around solutions are fairly simple:


It’s highly possible that all of the must-haves and must-do’s on your list may not be all that important. For example, buying that expensive Berkey, which is recommended by every prepper expert, after all, may not be the most important next step for you if you just don’t have the money. Learning how to can is a great skill to have, but if you don’t have the time, buy store-bought canned food, for now.

If you’re feeling pressured because you don’t have the time, the money, the space, the skills…take a step back and catch your breath. Maybe whatever it is that you’re feeling pressured to do isn’t necessary after all.

If your To Do list seems a mile long, pick just 1 or 2 tasks to take care of and forget the others, for now.

Hire someone

Although I’ve been blogging for 7 years, there are many, many important technical skills that I don’t have. I couldn’t code if my life depended on it. So, I hire people to do those things for me. My daughter creates all my graphics and earns $8 a piece.

If you identify the limitations that are most bothersome, ask yourself, is this something I could delegate to someone who does have the time, the money, the skills, the space, etc? You don’t necessarily have to pay cash, either. Could you swap childcare or offer the talents and skills you have in exchange?

Train kids/family members

If you have good friends and family members, there’s no need to go down the prepper road alone. Enlist their help, even if you don’t care to share why a certain task is important.

In his book Will to Live, Les Stroud shared the story of a family stranded out in the ocean. For unknown reasons, the father refused to teach his son or wife how to catch or clean a fish or do any number of other tasks that would help the family survive. Like that dad, you may be highly competent, but at some point, you’ll need assistance and teaching others the skills and knowledge you have will help overcome the limitations of time and physical ability, in particular.

Decide if expectations are too high

Is it possible that you’ve set a bar too high in your diligence to become prepared? Are your expectations unrealistic? Ask yourself, “What is the bare minimum we need to survive a natural disaster or some other likely event?” Make sure that “bare minimum” is in place first before fretting about having a rural bug out location or some souped-up vehicle to get you and your loved ones out of Dodge.

One chunk at a time

You may not have the money for a year’s worth of freeze-dried food, but could you afford 2 or 3 #10 cans per month? Maybe you don’t have time to take a master gardening class, but how about signing up for a Udemy class to learn some new gardening skills? You might not be physically fit enough right now to walk a long distance, but could you start an at-home walking program for beginners?

Any task becomes easier when it’s broken into small chunks. This is helpful for procrastinators, like me!

Find an alternative

If you really don’t like canning, then learn how to dehydrate food. Don’t want to take an in-depth first aid class? Then assign that to a family member or two while you take a class in a different area.

Final step: What do you do best?

By now you know what your prepper limitations are, but what are your strengths? Go ahead and delegate, hire, re-prioritize — do whatever needs to be done, but remember to keep doing what you do best! Your strengths might even open the door for a way to earn extra money, either by teaching others that skill or by producing a product or service that others need and will purchase.

There’s no need for prepper limitations to jeopardize your safety and well-being when an everyday emergency or worst case scenario hits the fan.

Learn more about prepping with these resources

prepper limitations

How to Preserve Privacy and Personal Space in the Midst of Chaos

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privacy personal space Ask any mom and she’ll tell you that quiet time and privacy are requirements for remaining sane. In a crisis, though, privacy quickly becomes a luxury and very nearly unattainable. Imagine life in a Red Cross shelter, with dozens of strangers sharing a gymnasium, with cots lined up uncomfortably close to each other, and you get the idea.

Personal space and privacy are more important to the human psyche than you might think. Privacy protects our dignity, quiet allows us to get our thoughts and emotions under control, and personal space can provide time for both sides of our brains, the creative and logical, to function. In fact, science tells us that when our personal space is constantly invaded, the amygdala activates and sounds a warning to our subconscious.

That may be why many people find it stressful to be surrounded by crowds for long periods of time. That amygdala doesn’t shut off until quiet, privacy, and personal space have been restored.

Privacy in a crisis

When chaos, fear, and indecision surround us, as in an emergency evacuation, privacy and quiet are imperative for mental health as well as dealing appropriately with the crisis. As you make plans for a possible evacuation or prepping for long term survival in a worst case scenario, include plans for providing quiet spaces and privacy if at all possible.

Along with the mental health angle, consider other practical reasons to include this in your preps:

  • Children of all ages need nap time during the day.
  • Those recovering from an illness or injury require extra rest for their recuperation.
  • A quiet private area can become a makeshift doctor’s office or surgical area. It’s much easier to keep a small area sanitized.
  • Children will still need to learn and a separate quiet area can be turned into a school room.
  • In a large open area, such as a public shelter, a separated space becomes a room within a room, whether it’s a bedroom or just somewhere private for family members to hang out.
  • Daytime sleep area for someone who has been working during the night.
  • A secure area where a family’s belongings can be safely stowed
  • An enclosed area is easier to keep warm during cold days and nights.
  • An area for changing clothes is important for maintaining privacy.

How to provide that private area

The easiest way to have a quiet, private area is a tent or a Privacy Pop. These collapsible structures allow you to set up a quiet, private space anywhere and can also double as a more or less permanent extra bedroom or a study area. Both are lightweight and easy to carry or pack in the trunk of your car.

For a privacy screen, a structure made of PVC pipe is an easy DIY project and requires very little money. In fact, narrow rectangular frames made from PVC pipe and fittings can be lashed together to create a lightweight divider. Sheets, blankets, or even lengths of plastic can be attached to each frame for privacy. When finished, this project can be folded flat and stored under a bed or upright in a closet.

A super easy and ultra budget friendly privacy screen can be created by hanging a curtain rod or a wire across a section of a room or in a doorway. Either drape fabric over the rod or wire or use curtain rings or hooks. This is very inexpensive, and all the supplies can fit in the trunk of a car.

Finally, building a sturdier privacy screen from wood is a DIY project that requires material, a few tools, and the ability to use them. This video provides a simple tutorial:

Necessity, not luxury

Maybe you’re skeptical about taking privacy into consideration with your prepping and survival plans, but maintaining your mental health and staying focused on survival, step-by-step, is difficult enough when conditions are fairly normal. Under highly stressful conditions, a quiet place where you can relax, think, and be alone may be exactly what you need.

A Privacy Pop giveaway!

When Privacy Pop asked if I’d host a giveaway for one of their bed tents, I was thrilled. We own a Privacy Pop and pull it out whenever any member of my family just needs extra quiet time on road trips when togetherness goes into overdrive! Now you have a chance to win one of these — your choice of color and size!

Read all about the Privacy Pop on their website, view the sizes and colors, and then enter to win right here! This giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8. Winner will be selected at random, contacted by email, and must respond within 48 hours or the prize will be forfeited and another winner selected.
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Where do you start when everything has been lost?

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Where Do You Start When Everything Has Been Lost-

Again and again, whether by fire, flood, or natural disaster, individuals and families face the challenge of starting their lives from scratch when their homes have been destroyed. Piles of debris are all that remain of homes and lifetimes of memories.  In the initial hours and days following such a disaster, what do you do?  Where do you start when everything has been lost?

In a crisis, it’s easy to lose perspective and fear causes us to, quite literally, not think clearly.  A “To Do” list is needed.  Here are a few tips from my book.

  • You need help! Check to see if a relative or a  friend can provide temporary housing for your family. This is no time to be proud. You need help, and your true friends will be more than willing to do anything they can to help.
  • Wherever and whenever help of any kind is offered, take it!
  • If a Red Cross or FEMA shelter isn’t an option, you’ll have to stay in a hotel or a tent. If you’re a timeshare owner, this might be a good time to use up some of those banked weeks!
  • Access your important documents in your Grab-n-Go Binder, or the one you have stored with a trusted friend, and begin to contact your insurance companies.
  • Move quickly to rent a car, file with your insurance, or get a hotel. Within hours, these resources will be flooded with people in your same desperate situation.
  • Acquire heavy duty gloves, closed-toed boots and work clothes to wear as you sift through debris. This will be hard physical labor, but it will also be emotionally draining to see the ruins of what was once your family’s home. Take plenty of breaks as you search for salvageable belongings and be ready to call it a day when fatigue begins to set in.
  • Kids are going to have a particularly rough time of it. If possible, designate an adult to keep watch over the kids in a location away from your ruined home and keep them distracted with videos, read-alouds, and playground time. This would be an ideal time for a longer-than-usual visit to grandma’s house.
  • It will take time, perhaps a lot of time, before the insurance company evaluates your losses and cuts a check, so be prepared to wait.
  • In the meantime, there will be dozens of decisions to be made. Where will you stay for the duration? Will the kids be able to continue with their schooling or will you need to homeschool for a while? Do you know of reputable disaster recovery companies? Reputable contractors? Roofers? Electricians? If you don’t have these names and phone numbers in your Grab-n-Go binder, now would be a good time to add them.
  • Quickly access any funds you have in your banking account(s). Remember, in an emergency “Cash is King!” If the power is out, chances are that your debit and credit cards will be useless, and vendors may not be willing to accept checks.
  • Use your cell phone or digital camera to begin documenting the damage to your home, vehicle, and property. E-mail the photos to yourself, so you’ll have easy access to them in the future and will be able to forward them to your insurance agent.
  • Depending on the time of year and weather conditions, elderly family members, infants, and anyone with chronic health issues should probably relocate somewhere less stressful, where medical facilities are easily accessible. Summer heat and humidity affects them more than anyone else.
  • Now, more than ever, spend time with people who lift you up and always seem to see the silver lining behind every cloud.

Above all, guard your mental and emotional health.  Be willing to seek out a pastor, counselor, or mental health professional and understand that it’s okay to cry and grieve.  Recovery, in every sense of the word, is going to take time.

You really need to become a prepper

Becoming a prepper may have never crossed your mind. Perhaps, thanks to shows like Doomsday Preppers, you associate being prepared for a worst case scenario with paranoid mouth breathers, basements filled with freeze dried food, and families scrambling for hazmat suits.

Well, I’m a prepper. I homeschool our kids, am an avid bicyclist, and love Mexican food and Lord of the Rings! Almost no one in our circle of friends know that we prep because we are just like them — busy with kids, sports, yard work, and job. What makes us different, though, is that, over the past 7 years, we have become better and better prepared for life’s curve balls.

That hardly makes us paranoid nuts!

Just one real life example of losing everything

This video, from the immense wildfire that hit the town of Fort McMurry in Alberta, may change your mind if you’ve never heard of prepping, have slowed down with your own preparedness (after all, life does have its many distractions), or have thought prepping just wasn’t for you.

This cozy living room, complete with a pristine fish tank and cozy pillows and blankets, could be yours or mine and yet, within minutes, it was consumed by fire. I can’t imagine the heartbreak the homeowners felt as they watched this video.

Getting started with prepping is as easy as buying a few extra cans of soup or tuna the next time you’re out grocery shopping. Take that first step!

Here’s just one resource I have for you, as a beginner.

And, here are a few more…

This article was originally posted in March, 2012, and updated.

Where Do You Start When Everything Has Been Lost-2


Fruit Juice in the Pantry — Giveaway!

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Mott's Fruit Juice giveawayOne of my favorite memories from my son’s early childhood was coming home one day and finding him hosting a kiddie cocktail party in our garage. Ever hospitable, he had provided each of his little friends with a bottle of water or juice. The kids, ages 3-5, were standing around, sipping their drinks, and, so help me, it truly looked like quite a sophisticated gathering, minus any tipsy behavior!

#mottsmoments #sweepstakes

#mottsmoments #sweepstakes

While my kids were growing up, we always kept a bottle of juice on hand in the fridge, since, sometimes, kids want something other than water or milk. I knew to stay away from sugary drinks and always opted for juices that contained only natural sugar from the fruit itself, such as Mott’s® and my creative offspring turned them into slushies and frozen juice pops.

This week my family revisited our juice cocktail party days with Mott’s® Apple Cherry juice. It’s a new flavor with no added sugar and a ton of Vitamin C. It’s slightly sweet and tart and, mixed with chilled, diet lemon-lime soda, was refreshing on a warm spring day in Texas.

Try Mott’s — Enter a giveaway!

Here at The Survival Mom, we spend a lot of time talking about saving money and raising smart, healthy, and prepared kids, and this giveaway will help you do both. Mott’s® is sponsoring a social media sweepstakes to promote their products, and winners receive a $100 Walmart gift card!

TIP: A Mott’s individual juice box inside a zipped plastic bag is a handy drink to add to a kid’s emergency kit. The natural sugars will give her a boost and the drink will help keep her hydrated.

To enter this contest, post a photo with Mott’s Apple Cherry Juice and tell why it is perfect for meal time (give the new Apple Cherry juice a try!). Share it on Instagram and/or Twitter, and use the hashtags #MottsMoments and #sweepstakes to make your entry official. Both hashtags are required. This sweepstakes ends on June 2, 2016.


Last, register your social media share at THIS LINK. Be sure to include your Instagram or Twitter handle (mine is @TheSurvivalMom on Twitter and thesurvivalmom on Instagram), name, and email in order for Mott’s to contact you if you win. And I do hope at least one of my readers is a winner!

The Survival Mom and juice bottles

If I were to tell you only about this fun sweepstakes, I wouldn’t be The Survival Mom! Here are a few survival tips you can use:

  • For food storage purposes, bottled juices are shelf stable, unopened, for at least 3 months. Store in a cool, dark location.
  • Over the years, I have repurposed empty juice bottles in a couple of different ways. I refilled them with water for a stash of emergency water, but usually, I reuse them to store dry foods, such as rice, cornmeal, and oats. The plastic bottles are made of food safe PET material. To extend the shelf life of the food so it doesn’t lose flavor, texture, or nutrients, I keep it stored at the coolest temperatures possible and in a dark location.
  • Empty juice bottles are also handy for keeping a small supply of pet food and kitty litter in the trunk of the car. Unlike a cardboard box or paper bag, the heavy duty plastic won’t rip and the tightly capped bottle insures that spillage is unlikely.
  • In an extreme scenario, juice provides additional nutrients your body needs that plain water doesn’t. For example, the Mott’s® Apple Cherry juice contains 120% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin C.
  • Any mylar drink pouch can be repurposed to store small amounts of food, laundry soap, or other dry goods. Click here for complete instructions.

How about you? Have you tried the new Mott’s® Apple Cherry juice? What do you look for in a fruit juice for your family and is it part of your food storage?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mott’s®. The opinions and text are all mine.

43 Super-Frugal Tips for Cutting Down on Household Expenses

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cutting down household expensesHome is where the heart is, but for too many of us, it’s also where the debt is and where paychecks go to die. It’s also one area in which small savings steps can really add up and where everyday spending decisions can make a big difference. Here are a few tips that have helped my family get out of debt and stay out for the past 8 years. You can save money on household expenses starting today.

  1. Buy used furniture, but make sure it’s great quality. You’ll have a much better chance of finding high quality furniture at resale and consignment stores. Once you get used to older, well-made furniture, you’ll be shocked by the low quality stuff found at new furniture stores, and the prices will leave you gasping for breath!
  2. Find out when the best discount days are at Goodwill and thrift stores and shop on those days. Ask about discounts for veterans and senior citizens, too. You’ll soon find your own set of favorite thrift stores — those with good prices and excellent quality, gently used clothing and other goods. I also recommend seeking out specialty thrift stores. When you’re in need of baby furniture and kids clothes, a kids-only resale shop will make your shopping easier since you won’t be wading through every other type of merchandise out there.
  3. Before calling a repairman to fix an appliance or a car, look for YouTube videos and do it yourself. Repairclinic.com is a site that sells thousands of parts for such things as lawn mowers, power tools, appliances, and much more. Between the easy ability to get the necessary parts and training videos online, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars in repair bills every year.
  4. Your insurance agent won’t thank me for this, but each year, try to get better prices on all your insurance policies. In fact, mark “Insurance Review” on your calendar. Review coverage, deductibles, and ask about discounts you might qualify for. Compare companies, and don’t limit your shopping around to only the Big Names in the insurance business, such as State Farm and Allstate.
  5. Do the same thing with all your other bills: internet/phone packages, cell phone packages, electricity, etc. Be sure to compare not only prices, but features and benefits.
  6. Kids grow quickly, so organize a toy and kid clothing swaps with other moms. This is a true win-win scenario: moms get to socialize, kids get new stuff, and everyone is saving money!
  7. Depending on where you live, this might be tough, but if you can postpone using the air conditioning or heater for as long as possible, you could save a good amount of money in a very short time. Growing up in Phoenix, I know a few tricks about staying cool in hot weather (read my tips here) and staying warm on a cold day requires layers of warm clothing and, perhaps, shutting off rooms that aren’t being used.
  8. Use a space heater and keep the central heat turned down to utilize heat in a way that continues to save money. There’s no need to warm up an entire house when you typically spend most of your daylight hours in just 2 or 3 rooms. Those are the rooms to keep warm.
  9. Consider extreme changes to your lifestyle, such as moving to a much cheaper neighborhood, city, or state. Other extreme steps: selling an expensive house and renting for a while, living with relatives for a while, or in an apartment with utilities included in the rent. Very often, these moves help a family rebound financially, save money, and prepare for moving on with their lives.
  10. Use a magicJack in place of a landline phone and continue to use your landline phone number. You’ll need to buy the magicJack device itself and pay a year’s service fee. Combined, this is under $60, and you can do away with any other landline phone service. Before jumping into the no-landline trend, though, you should know that a power outage will disable all types of plug-in phones, including cordless.
  11. Use plastic grocery bags as liners for small size trash cans. These bags can also be placed over ripening fruit and vegetables to keep the birds away, used as a type of “glove” for picking up dog poop, or as packing material. They’re also handy as a daily compost collector. Just remember to empty the contents each day in your outdoor compost pile!
  12. Stay home more. Every time you go out there are temptations to spend money, but this doesn’t have to mean life becomes unbearably boring. Here’s a list of more than 100 things to do that are free and fun.
  13. Be a one-car family. It will take some getting used to and juggling of schedules sometimes but the savings in insurance, vehicle wear and tear, gas, repairs, etc. will add up. However, before you sell that extra vehicle, park it for a week or two to get an idea of what life will be like once it’s gone forever. How will its loss impact doctor and dentist appointments, school and sports activities, etc.? It’s better to find out now, while you still have that second car!
  14. Begin using cloth diapers, if you have a baby in the family. New styles are easy to use and most moms who make the switch from disposables say they’ll never go back. If you have an adult family member who may need incontinence pads, use baby diapers for their super-absorbency.
  15. Become familiar with what your dollar stores usually stock and when you need those items, go there rather than other retail stores where you’ll pay full price.
  16. Start drying your clothes on a clothesline and wash them cold water.
  17. Unplug electric items when not in use. One homeowner told me that he saved a few hundred dollars per year doing this.
  18. Weatherstrip doors and windows. For just the low cost of some new weatherstripping, you can keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. If you’re not sure if a particular window or exterior door needs new weatherstripping, hold a lit candle near its edges. If you see the flame flicker, air is coming through the cracks around the door or window.
  19. Buy next year’s clothing at end of the year clearance sales. This is particularly helpful with higher priced items like winter coats and cold-weather boots.
  20. Gradually replace lightbulbs with LEDs. My electrician husband swears by LED bulbs.
  21. Run the dishwasher right after dinner and set a timer for when the washing cycle has ended and the drying begins. When the timer goes off, open the dishwasher door and let the dishes dry overnight.
  22. Go for long hairstyles and get a trim twice a year. Some stylists claim that a long hairstyle is more youthful!
  23. While your kids are young, learn how to cut their hair. If you mess up a bit, hey, they won’t even notice, and by the time they’re old enough to care, your skills will be advanced!
  24. Cut back or eliminate expensive activities for kids. Find cheaper or free alternatives – classes at Home Depot, REI, Cabela’s, Minecraft classes online, the library, and so much more. Remember what your own childhood was like, with far fewer extracurricular activities, lessons, and busy schedules? There’s a good chance that your imagination thrived and you turned out okay. So will your kids.
  25. Gas prices go up and down, but try to get in the habit of walking or riding a bike on nearby errands. Carpool when you can. Not only will this save on gas but also on the wear and tear of your vehicle. Add the health benefits of walking or bicycling, and it’s a winning combination.
  26. Stay away from stores that tempt you most. They have such an enormous variety of products that you’re bound to find something you absolutely need — or do you??
  27. If you need money in a hurry, go through one or two rooms of your house, garage, and/or attic, and look for items you no longer need, want, can’t wear, etc and sell them on a local Facebook page, Craigslist, etc. This is quicker than a garage sale, with no need to set up or price items.
  28. Grow a garden. Even an herb garden is a huge, frugal help if you regularly buy fresh herbs for recipes. Watch your expenses, though, because store-bought mulch, fertilizer, seeds, supplies to build boxes, etc. add up quickly.
  29. Begin your own compost pile out in the backyard. It’s a great way to enrich your soil, with no expense at all.
  30. Knit dish cloths from inexpensive cotton yarn. You can make several from just one large ball of yarn. These make great gifts as well, and it’s a great way for kids to learn this useful skill.
  31. Don’t know how to knit? Learn this skill and hundreds of others on YouTube! Free training and, in many cases, even the supplies are extremely cheap.
  32. Ditch napkins and paper towels Use small washcloths for napkins instead. You’ll be using these for years, versus continually buying the paper products.
  33. Make inexpensive homemade cleaning solutions from vinegar, baking soda, small amounts of liquid soap, and so on. For years, I used just vinegar and water to clean my stained concrete floors. You can’t beat that for being frugal!
  34. Cut up old t-shirts for cleaning cloths and save old, worn-out towels for really messy jobs, such as cleaning up after pet accidents or wiping up anything that might stain one of your nicer towels. I keep a large stack of these towels in a cabinet in my laundry room, handy for all the uh-ohs that occur on a regular basis.
  35. During cold weather, wear layers around the house, socks, and turn the heat down.
  36. Collect blankets and use them to cover windows, doorways, and add triple and quadruple layers of warmth to beds! I always keep blankets handy in our living and family rooms.
  37. Never buy new vehicles. Ever. Let someone else drive that brand new car or truck out of the dealer’s showroom and enjoy the quick depreciation in value! You can lurk in the background, waiting for them to grow tired of their shiny new toy, either sell it or trade it in, and then you can leap into action, grabbing that vehicle at a huge discount.
  38. Maintain your vehicles with regular oil changes, keep the tires inflated, and take care of minor issues before they become budget-destroying expenses. This becomes especially important when you want to sell your used vehicle.
  39. Don’t postpone visits to the dentist and taking care of small cavities. Dental problems can become very expensive if ignored.
  40. Do your workouts at home, not a gym. Sooner or later, you’ll grow tired of the trips to the gym but will probably forget to cancel your membership. This will result in paying for something you aren’t using.
  41. If you have pets, find the best priced pet insurance. It may make the difference between saying goodbye too soon to a beloved pet and being able to afford expensive medical treatment.
  42. Ask doctors for samples of pharmaceutical medicines. Many are willing to do this — no problem at all. Not only will it help you to know if you’ll have any negative reactions to the medication before buying it, you’ll also save money. Years ago when we didn’t have health insurance, my husband’s doctor gave him a supply of one prescription for over a year.
  43. Do your own yard work and housecleaning, or pay the kids to do it. Be sure to thoroughly teach them how you want the job to be done. This is vital to developing their work ethic, attention to detail, and ability to follow directions. If you don’t believe in paying kids to do household chores (above and beyond their typical duties), then don’t!

Here are even more resources to help you save money!

cutting down household expenses

Using Dried Eggs: A Tutorial

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how to use dried eggsDehydrated and freeze-dried foods are among the easiest foods around for both everyday cooking and long-term food storage. One handy item in that category is dried eggs and knowing how to use them is important.

At first glance, a pouch or can of this powdery substance may not be very appealing, but I can recommend it for so many different reasons. Here are just a few:

  • With dried eggs on hand, you won’t ever have to worry about running out of fresh eggs at a critical juncture, whether baking a cake or serving scrambled eggs for breakfast.
  • In a disaster or other worst case scenario, fresh eggs may be hard to come by. With dried eggs, you’ll always have this staple on hand.
  • Dried eggs do not need to be refrigerated.
  • Dried whole eggs are a God send for those on low carb diets, and dried egg whites are perfect for making low fat recipes.
  • A #10 can of dried whole eggs contains around 70 eggs. Try storing 70 fresh eggs in the same amount of space!

Chances are, you’ve already eaten dried eggs and didn’t even realize it. Many restaurants, school cafeterias, and the military use dried eggs because of their versatility, ease of storage, and convenience. (Restaurants also often use liquid eggs in a carton, and those will probably contain additives. Plain, dried eggs do not.)

For the purists among us, the only thing you’ll find in most containers of dried eggs are…eggs. Some companies may add a small amount of an anti-caking ingredient, but other than that, what you see is what you get.

Forms of dried eggs

Dried eggs are sold by all the major food storage companies, including my long-time sponsor, Augason Farms, as well as companies that sell packaged meals convenient for camping, hiking, hunting, and the like. One such company is Mountain House.

You’ll find dried whole eggs, dried egg whites, and different versions of scrambled eggs. In my research, dried scrambled eggs were the only dried egg product that contained numerous additives, such as bacon, ham, or dehydrated peppers. Some brands also contained preservatives, flavorings, and artificial coloring.

Dried scrambled eggs will produce something that looks and tastes like scrambled eggs, with a scrambled egg consistency, and they’re very handy for quick, tasty meals. Check out the ingredients on different brands, though, to make sure nothing has been added to the eggs that might cause an allergic reaction to someone in the family.

Dried whole eggs are the most versatile of all the dried egg products because only dried and powdered eggs are in the container. You can use this egg powder in place of fresh eggs in your baking, in casseroles, frittatas, and for use in the breading process. Dried eggs can be added directly to most recipes without having to be reconstituted with water first, but do add a little extra water to the recipe equivalent to the amount required for reconstituting the eggs.

In most cases, equal parts water and dried egg powder will equal one egg, but be sure to double check the label.

Tips for how to use dried eggs

  1. Dried eggs come in small pouches, #2.5 cans, #10 cans, and buckets. Pouches are handy for sampling the product before buying a larger quantity. #2.5 cans are best for households with only 1 or 2 persons or for those who seldom use fresh eggs. The #10 can will hold about a gallon of dried egg powder but since the can, once opened, will have a shelf life of a year or so, it’s not an overwhelming size. Most households easily consume 70 eggs per year.
  2. To calculate how much dried egg powder you should keep in your long-term storage, start keeping track of how many eggs your family consumes per month. Every time you record 70 eggs, or 6 dozen, that’s the equivalent of one #10 can.
  3. Always, always store food in a cool and dark part of the house. This will help extend its shelf life.
  4. If you make homemade pancake mix, add dried eggs, and store the mix in a cool cupboard. Each morning when you want pancakes, just scoop out the mix, add water, and you’re ready to go!
  5. Dried scrambled eggs will likely contain vegetable oil, which goes rancid over time. I recommend storing extra scrambled egg powder in a jar with a tight fitting lid and keeping it in the refrigerator for longest possible shelf life.
  6. Not sure what a #2.5 can or a #10 can is? Read this tutorial!

how to use dried eggs

16 Super-Frugal Tips to Save Loads of Money on Entertainment & Holidays

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It’s a myth that in order to have fun, you must spend money — no matter what your kids tell you! Over the years, we’ve spent a fortune at Disneyland, complete with several years of annual passes, and guess what? Some of our very, very best memories aren’t from Disneyland but from our primitive, family camping trips. My kids talk about kayaking in northern Idaho and the time we almost starved to death at Crater Lake (long story), but now that I think of it, they rarely mention Disneyland.

Hmmm…think of all the money we could have saved.

But entertainment isn’t just about Disneyland vs. camping trips, it’s also the everyday things we do, such as watch TV, go to movies, and celebrate holidays. Here are some of my own tips for managing these things on a tight budget.

  1. Get rid of cable TV. Put a digital antenna up and/or subscribe to Netflix. The antenna will allow you to get as many as a few dozen channels, including all the local networks, which is nice for keeping up with local newscasts. Our house is heavily shaded by trees, but we put our antenna in the attic, and believe it or not, it works just fine. You can add a booster if you have reception problems.
  2. Completely give up TV! I know that’s a completely radical idea, but I grew up without a TV in the house and turned out just fine. Expect a time of mourning and complaints of boredom, and that will probably be from your spouse!, but give it a couple of weeks, and gradually, that empty time will be filled with other activities, learning new hobbies, and maybe even more book-reading!
  3. A couple of options to cable, if you absolutely must have streaming TV channels, are Streambox and Amazon Fire Stick.
  4. For sports fans who simply cannot give up their cable channels, try Sling TV instead. Much cheaper than most cable networks, you can get ESPN and ESPN2, along with 20 other cable channels, for just about $20/month. (Fans of The Walking Dead will be thrilled to know this show is just one of many offered by Sling!) I’ve found Sling to be easy to use but there are occasional, brief snags in the streaming. Still, for $20 a month, we can handle it, and I’m back to enjoying episodes of Chopped!
  5. If you don’t have cable or any other TV device, for the really big games and tournaments, head to a sports bar. Limit yourself to 1 beer and enjoy the happy hour food prices. Altogether, you’ll likely end up spending in one, fun-filled evening less than what a month of cable would cost.
  6. For the ultimate in cheap video entertainment, rent DVDs from the library.
  7. Stop buying DVDs of movies and TV shows. All too often, those are watched once and then only occasionally after that. It just doesn’t make sense to buy when far more cheaper options are available.
  8. Ready for one more option for cheap TV viewing? Use the Chromecast app on your smartphone to watch anything on the internet.
  9. Make a list of cheap places to go for entertainment and outings: library, parks, free days at the zoo and museums, etc. It’s a myth that you have to spend a lot of money in order to have fun.
  10. At-home date nights don’t have to cost anything at all when you keep your focus on why you want a date night in the first place — to spend some quiet time connecting with your sweetheart. Send the kids to grandma’s house or a neighbor’s for a play date and enjoy the peace and quiet however you like.
  11. Another seriously cheap date is “going for a drive”. When I was a kid, this was something people did — they got in their cars and went on scenic drives together. For date purposes, this gets you away from the house and kids, the car is a quiet place for conversation, listening to music, singing along, and being together. The only expense? A few gallons of gas.
  12. Create a gift list in a notebook or on your phone and do your shopping for birthdays, weddings, an holidays far in advance. There’s nothing quite like having all your holiday shopping finished before the days turn cold and then being able to fully enjoy the beauty of the holidays without that feeling of panic as you scramble for last minute gifts.
  13. Celebrate holidays a day or two after the official dates and buy treats, paper goods, etc. highly discounted.
  14. I like to buy red and green M&Ms or Hershey Kisses after Christmas, and then use the red candies, plates, and napkins on Valentine’s Day and the green ones with our traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal. Do the same thing with Valentine’s Day and Easter candy — pink/blue are perfect for baby showers, yellow/green are nice to set out for Mother’s Day or a ladies afternoon tea party.
  15. Discounted chocolate candy can last a lot longer than you think if you vacuum seal it in canning jars. Here are instructions for doing that.
  16. Buy one gift card each month and stash them away for the holidays. At that time, pull them out and you have 12 gifts to give, OR use the cards to do your gift shopping! Use this Gift Card Tracking printable so you don’t forget what you’ve purchaed!

18 Tips for Enjoying a Frugal Lifestyle

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frugal lifestyle tips




Frugal lifestyle tips.

Do any of these words bring to mind a lifestyle full of joy and freedom? Oddly, they don’t. Instead, they bring to mind images of Scrooge and dreary, turn-of-the-century London slums. (Not sure why that last image comes to mind, but it does. Possibly from reading Oliver Twist!)

For those of us who do live lives of frugality, penny-pinching, and, yes, thriftiness, the reality is quite different. My family has been debt free for many years, with only a house payment and utilities as our expenses. While we aren’t exactly rolling in dough, neither are we over-burdened with stuff and all the responsibilities that come from owning too much stuff.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years and a handful on my own To Do list:

  1. Give yourself a cash allowance every week or month and when the money is gone, it’s gone. Even having $10-20 and knowing you can spend it on ANYTHING YOU LIKE, adds some fun to the month. This will help you avoid those moments of self-pity when it feels like you never get to treat yourself to something special, and then, when you do spend, you know the money is there and there’s no stress about whether or not you can afford it.
  2. Check your banking account online often. Look for unauthorized expenses and those little expenses that can add up quickly. It helps you feel like you’re in control when you know exactly how much money is in your account and where it’s going and if there are any fraudulent charges, you can contact the bank immediately.
  3. Find friends who also want to live a frugal lifestyle, rather than with people who have expensive tastes. If you hang out with people who absolutely must have the latest technical gadget the day it comes out and they spend money like it’s water, pretty soon you’ll begin to do the same, or you’ll end up feeling depressed when you don’t spend. Who needs that additional stress?
  4. Have no spend days. Once you are able to go 1, 2, 3, and 4 days without spending a dime, then challenge yourself and your family to a full week of no spending.
  5. If one member of the family is more frugal, more of a saver, send THEM to the store with a list. They’ll be more likely to stick to the list and avoid impulse buys. If I run to the store to buy 4 things, you’d better believe I come home with 30 or 40. My penny-pinching daughter?  She’ll stick to that list like white on rice!
  6. Make saving money a game. What are the very cheapest meals you can make? If you spent $500 on groceries this month, can you spend $475 next month and $450 the next?
  7. On Sundays, sit down with your family and plan your spending for the week. Know what you will need to buy and this helps avoid buying things you don’t need. This will also help surprise expenses that the kids might spring on you at the last moment, such as fees for school activities.
  8. If possible, have a set amount of money automatically deposited from your paycheck into your savings account. There’s a very good chance you’ll never miss it. If you don’t make a point of saving money on purpose, it will never happen. Use this 52 Weeks Savings Plan, too.
  9. Carry cash for your spending money. It’s harder to spend it than it is to swipe a card. Those plastic debit and credit card remove you from the actual transition of cash. After all, it’s just a swipe, right?
  10. Take advantage of pre-tax Health Savings Accounts and employer contributions to a 401K, if those are offered by your job. Every benefit offered by your company, even if it’s just a bag of coffee beans per month as offered by Starbucks to their employees, is there for the taking. (By the way, Starbucks is an excellent employer. Review their benefits here.)
  11. Keep track of your financial progress: savings, debt repayment, mortgage/car pay offs, etc. This is so motivating — and get the family involved. Right now, my own family is saving up for an extensive vacation, and we have savings goals for each month. Not surprisingly, both kids are eager to get summer jobs, so they can add to the kitty!
  12. Use tax returns strategically: pay off debt, use it as your emergency fund, divide it by 12 and use it toward a monthly expense, etc. If you normally get this little “windfall” from the IRS, give yourself at least 3-4 weeks before spending it, a “cooling off period,” if you will. That will give you time to prioritize expenses and decide how much you want to set aside in savings.
  13. Watch your attitude and be grateful for what you have. It’s easy to become discouraged and even depressed when money is tight, but our grandparents and great-grandparents who lived through the Great Depression not only survived but many of them have said those were the best days of their lives. Why? Certainly not because they had every creature comfort and a huge bank balance, but because it was a time of families and communities pulling together, encouraging one another, and finding creative ways to make the most of what they had. If they could do it, you can, too!
  14. Stay away from malls and stores! You can’t pray, “Lead me not into temptation”, and expect to not be lured by tantalizing merchandise in stores and your favorite mall!
  15. Do the same for your kids. They are immersed in messages that tell them they must own certain items, dress a certain way, emulate one celebrity or another and spending time at malls and stores will only further drive home the message that happiness and acceptance by others can only come by spending money. Not a good foundation for their adult years.
  16. Spoil your kids with things that don’t cost much, if any, money – story time with mom, a trip to the dog park, story time at the library, “Hot Chocolate Night”, etc. This is when it really pays to keep track of restaurants and fast food joints that have “kids eat free” days. Combine that with a special night out for just you and one of the kids, and that’s a really inexpensive way to make your kid feel like a million bucks. In our house, we call this, “Girls Night Out” and “Guys Night Out.”
  17. Know the difference between needs and wants and make sure everyone in the family understands this, adults included! When my son has a long list of things he absolutely must have, I have him list each of them on a separate PostIt note and put them on the fridge. A few days later, I ask, “Is there anything on that list you don’t really want or need, after all?” One by one, the PostIts come off the fridge as he realizes he was just acting on impulse. If there’s something left after 3 or 4 weeks, he then begins saving money to buy it.
  18. Sign up to become a mystery shopper. This is a tricky way to get a nice meal out and be reimbursed. I’ve done mystery shopping for several companies over the years. It’s not the easy, get-rich-quick job that some claim, but once you get in with a few companies, you can pick and choose which jobs to take. Now, I only, and very occasionally, shop my absolute favorite high-end restaurant. For a $45 gift card to that same restaurant, it’s not a bad investment of my time!

frugal lifestyle tips

31 Super-Frugal Tips for Saving Money on Food

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saving money on foodIn any family’s budget, there are many expenses we have little control over: rent, insurance, mortgage, tuition, but when it comes to food, now there’s an expense we can easily adjust. Here are 31 tips that have helped my family with saving money on food.

  1. No more restaurants or fast food. For my family, this means planning meals and keeping up with grocery shopping. The second I become so busy that I don’t have dinner planned and ready is the moment we decide to eat out, again! And there goes at least $40. For one meal.
  2. No packaged microwave meals. Too many additives, too few of these meals actually taste good, the portion sizes are tiny, and they can be expensive. Try cooking up a large batch of soup, a stew, chili, a casserole, or preparing breakfast or lunch burritos, and then freezing them in individual portion sizes. Here are a few additional ideas to get you started on this healthier option.
  3. Take lunch to work and pack school lunches as well. Your meals will be cheaper, but just as importantly, they will almost certainly be healthier and better balanced. I bought this lunch box set for my husband, and all of a sudden, it’s cool to take your lunch to work!
  4. Keep packets of instant soup/oatmeal and cans of soup at work for days when you forget to pack a lunch. Be sure to keep a spoon, knife, and fork tucked away in a desk drawer.
  5. Say no to expensive vending machines. The easiest way I know to do that is to simply not have any change on hand! No money = no junk from the vending machine. Saving money on food can be just this easy!
  6. Carry snacks in the car to avoid impulse stops at fast food or convenience stores. If you know you’ll be running errands and/or you have a full day of appointments, pack a small cooler with healthy, homemade snacks, sandwiches, fruit, and water.
  7. If you must go out to a restaurant, find a place with cheap Happy Hour prices on appetizers and make that your dinner. My husband and I recently found an awesome sports bar just a couple of miles from our home, with super inexpensive lunches, and their evening menu is budget-friendly, too. We’re not big drinkers and only moderate sports fans, but it’s a fun night out and we can keep our bill to $20 or so.
  8. Another restaurant tip — find one that serves huge portions and share the meal.
  9. Make coffee at home and take it to work/school in a thermos container. Avoid Starbucks. I know 2 teenagers who stop at Starbucks virtually every day and typically get expensive drinks that cost $4-6 or so apiece. That’s a ton of money per month!
  10. Learn how to make “fancy” Starbucks-style drinks at home. You may very well end up liking your homemade version better.
  11. Keep an eye on leftovers and produce in the fridge. Don’t shove them toward the back of the top shelf! Instead, keep them at eye level, so you’re reminded of them every time you open the fridge. Eat them before they go bad.
  12. Become a master of “re-imagining” leftovers! Chop up all the meat leftovers in the fridge and add them to chili, a stew, or a soup. Here’s a recipe I invented for Spur of the Moment Chili, which came about just like it sounds! (I do my best cooking when my back’s to the wall and it’s 5:30 p.m.!) I also take leftover meat, either chop or shred it, and then fry it in some butter with chopped onion and sliced, fresh jalapenos. This makes an amazing filling for tacos or burritos.
  13. Learn how to make homemade tortillas, for better taste and frugality!
  14. Plan meals for several days at a time, shop for those ingredients, and avoid quick trips to the grocery store where you’ll inevitably end up spending more
  15. Look for a discount bin in the meat department. This is how we’ve managed to fully stock our freezer to overflowing.
  16. Make multiple meals ahead of time and freeze them. It will help when you have busy days and evenings when you’re tempted to just eat out. Truthfully, eating out is so much easier than cooking everything at home, but the expense adds up and it’s one of the few expenses we have total control over.
  17. Cook a whole chicken and plan 2-3 meals with the meat: shredded chicken mixed with beans or chopped and cooked potatoes in burritos or tacos, shredded chicken in white chili — the trick is to combine the chicken, or any meat, with other ingredients in order to use it in 2 or more meals.
  18. Learn to cook more things from scratch, even things like bread, noodles, crackers, hamburger buns, and marinara.
  19. Cook more meatless meals and more meals with meat/chicken as one of the ingredients and not the main dish on its own – egg meals, beans, rice, soup, loaded baked potatoes.
  20. Use coupons only when they are for foods you would buy at full price and avoid processed foods, which are both unhealthy and more expensive than homemade.
  21. Set a goal for no eating out — one week? Two weeks? How long can you go without eating a single meal at a restaurant? This is also one of the easiest ways I know of to drop a few pounds.
  22. If you can’t resist appetizers at a restaurant, then make one of them your meal, or buy 2 or 3 and share them. Also, if you go to a restaurant that offers free chips and salsa or warm bread before a meal, that’s one way of filling up and not being all that hungry for an expensive entree.
  23. Hunt and fish for healthier meats and save on your grocery budget. Look for a good, used freezer and a vacuum sealer in order to freeze the meat for later. Or, learn how to can it and keep it stored at room temperature, long-term.
  24. Use the weekly grocery store ads to determine what meals you will make. Make those decisions based on the best grocery store sales, not by recipes or whatever you might be, “in the mood for.”
  25. One way to save money on lunchtime restaurant meals is to go home each day for lunch if you happen to live near your workplace.
  26. If you use coupons use them on double coupon days and combine with grocery store sales. Give serious couponing a try to see if it works for you, your schedule, and your lifestyle, but avoid being enslaved by it. Use coupons only for the products you truly need and use, but then, get their maximum benefit by shopping on double coupon days.
  27. Decide which grocery store(s) tend to have the best prices and memorize the store’s layout. That way, when you need to go shopping for just a few items, you’ll know exactly where they’re located. That saves time and money, since you won’t be wandering around the store, being tempted by product displays at every turn!
  28. Start keeping a price book on everything you buy. This is an old-time concept and it’s effective. Simply keep track of the lowest price you’ve ever paid for something and record it in the book. This will help you know when a price is really a good discount or just a temporary gimmick. For example, if the lowest price you’ve ever paid for a gallon of whole milk is $2.39 and you’ve recorded that price, when you see it advertised for $2.79, you’ll know it can be bought for less. When you find it on sale for $2.19, record that new price, and it becomes your new “Lowest Price” for a gallon of milk. A price book helped me cut down my grocery expenses by a large margin. I organized it by food categories: dairy, meats, produce, frozen, canned, and so on.
  29. Learn to use meal stretchers, such as cooked and mashed lentils in meatballs, rice or macaroni in soups. Add 2 cups of cooked rice to casseroles and skillet meals. Not only will the meal serve more people but you’ll likely have leftovers for future lunches and dinners.
  30. Tortillas are my trick for using up almost any leftover! I make leftover tacos or burritos by adding the heated leftovers to a soft, warm tortilla, shred a little cheese over the top and add sour cream and/or salsa. If you have leftover meat and need to make several of these, add cooked rice or cooked, diced potatoes to stretch the meat a little further.
  31. Learn how to make one big dish, like chili, and then utilize it in different meals throughout the week: chili over rice, chili on a baked potato, chili with macaroni, Frito pie, chili dogs, and even added to a can of soup!

saving money on food

Women with Firearms: 23 Truths You Should Know

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Women with Firearms-

According to a study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the number of women with firearms is growing by leaps and bounds with more than 74 percent of retailers reporting an increase in women customers in their stores in 2013 over 2012. The number one reason for this increase is protection. If you are one of these many women with guns, or if you’re considering purchasing a firearm, there are a few truths that you should know.

23 Tips for Women with Firearms

  1. You can never have too much ammo. It’s amazing how quickly one or two people can shoot through 100 rounds or more in a single target practice.
  2. If you’re smart, your firearms will be common calibers. It will be easier to find ammo and easier to get replacement parts.
  3. If you’re even smarter, you’ll own firearms that are of popular makes and models. It will be easier to find a gunsmith capable of making repairs and handling customized requests.
  4. Unless you’re at the range every day, it’s hard to get too much practice. If the range masters know you by name, that’s a good sign that you’re getting enough practice!
  5. It’s a mistake to limit your practice to shooting at a piece of paper under optimal conditions. Take classes that will challenge your shooting skills in high-pressure scenarios. Until the adrenaline is really pumping and your brain feels scrambled, you’ll never know how you’ll respond in a life or death situation. (Note: The first time I was firing a gun under pressure, I got so rattled that I was using my non-dominant eye.  I was fortunate that any shots hit my target!)
  6. A shotgun should be at or near the top of your list when it comes to firearms for home defense. Your choices are the 12 gauge, 20 gauge and the 410. Once you’ve made your decision, get to the range and practice, practice, practice. When it comes to stopping power, a shotgun can’t be beat. According to the study, 50 percent of women with firearms have at least one shotgun and 56 percent have a semiautomatic pistol.
  7. Don’t fall into the trap of buying the smallest gun at the store. Believe it or not, a larger gun will be more comfortable and will shoot more accurately. Read my reviews of the Sig Sauer Mosquito, Walther P22 and Ruger Mark III.
  8. Learn how to clean your own gun. Learn how to completely dismantle it (field strip), clean each part, and put it back together.
  9. Your safety is your responsibility. Not your husband’s, nor the police, nor your kids.
  10. A gun isn’t the end-all when it comes to personal or home security. Think in terms of layers: Situational awareness, home security systems, a watchdog, cacti or rose bushes along the back fence. It all adds up to more peace of mind and less dependence on any one strategy.
  11. If a gun isn’t possible or desirable in your circumstances, come up with Plan B. One of my friends keeps a baseball bat near the front seat of her minivan. Another always has the most powerful pepper spray on the market in her purse, and yet another keeps an 18″ length of steel rebar wedged between the driver’s seat of her car and the middle console. Whatever your choice, always be aware of the location of your weapon, practice using it, and be comfortable with the thought that one day you may have to use it.
  12. Don’t listen to celebrities and politicians who go on hysterical anti-gun rants. Remember, they can afford armed bodyguards and state-of-the-art home security systems. (Interesting that it’s okay if their bodyguards are armed but they don’t think law-abiding citizens should be able to own and carry guns.) I am my kids’ armed bodyguard.

    image by roblisameehan

  13. Practice rapid firing when you’re at the range. If your life, or that of your children’s, is ever on the line, and your only choice is to draw your gun, your best tactic will be multiple, rapid shots at the bad guy(s).
  14. Don’t assume you will only ever have to deal with a single bad guy. Just like roaches, bad guys stick together. You may very well be confronted with several all at once. Keep that in mind.
  15. There’s a reason why experts prefer to keep their sidearms concealed. Open carry is okay if you’re trying to impress people, but it also makes you a target. According to the study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, more than 42 percent of women with guns have a concealed carry permit.
  16. Your life should never depend on a gun you’re afraid to shoot. If the recoil is too powerful, if the trigger pull is too heavy, if firing it hurts your hand, do not plan on using that gun as a defensive weapon. Sell it. Give it away, but whatever you do, have a gun you are comfortable with and actually enjoy shooting. If that life or death moment should ever come, there cannot be even a moment’s hesitation due to fear of using your gun.
  17. If you choose to carry your handgun concealed, practice drawing it from its holster or from its concealed location. And then practice another hundred times.
  18. It’s a really good idea to keep an extra loaded magazine in your purse, the glove compartment, wherever it will be safe and easily accessible.

    image by Secretly Ironic

  19. You just might be able to easily handle a larger caliber of handgun than you think at first. Don’t underestimate your ability.
  20. Nothing beats not being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  21. Be willing to back down in a confrontation or willing to run or call for help. Your goal is to survive, not show off to the world your awesome marksmanship skills.
  22. Every gun-nut has his/her own opinion about the best make, model, caliber, shooting stance, etc. Be willing to listen but keep in mind that they are just opinions.
  23. Don’t get overly cocky just because you have a firearm in the house, your purse, or have a certificate from your shooting range for completing an advanced course. Law enforcement officers miss their target in a shooting confrontation about 70% of the time. Think about that.

Do you have firearms in your home? What would you add to this list? Are there any other truths I’ve missed?

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Special Needs Preppers: Single Moms

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single moms

In the world of preparedness, most all information is aimed for an audience that includes a network of supportive family members, a spouse in particular. All of the tasks are daunting and the future scenarios gloomy beyond belief. Enter single moms who are responsible for the welfare of her children. If her income is the only one keeping the family afloat and there are few, if any, close friends or relatives in the vicinity, she is truly on her own.

How can single moms prepare for the future?

Moms, if you’ve ever been faced with a car breakdown on the side of the road, alone, and without a cell phone, you have an idea of what it would feel like to be a single mom facing an uncertain future. At some point in that scenario, you have no choice but to seek out help from strangers or anyone willing to help. Therefore, I believe that the first step for single parents is to start creating their own survival/prepper web of supportive people. This is the most important step because it takes a lot of time to find like-minded people who are also trustworthy and with whom you are compatible. In the preparedness world people are often suspicious of others, which adds to the amount of time you’ll need to create that web. Single moms can start by:

  • Checking out Meet-Up groups on topics related to preparedness and survival, such as camping, gardening, hiking, backyard chickens, organic produce, couponing. Some towns have groups labeled, “Survival” or “Preppers”, so it’s worth a search. Single moms, in particular, need to use a lot of common sense and caution when meeting with strangers, but these groups usually offer a safe way to get to know others who share your interests.
  • Finding a supportive church. Maybe church hasn’t really been your thing, but if you’re looking for a large group of people who already have a lot in common, this can be a great avenue. Often their activities include childcare as well as single parent social groups, which immediately connects you with others. And, don’t discount the importance of having a strong faith when faced with challenges that include the everyday frustrations of motherhood as well as potential worst case scenarios.
  • Checking out the state forums at American Preppers Network. Some states have very active groups, others not so much, but it’s one resource that will have local people who can steer you in the right direction for joining prepper groups.
  • Joining hobby clubs, such as ham radio or gardening clubs. The members of these clubs are already a little on the fanatical side and will welcome newcomers. (I base this claim on the number of ham radio operators I have met and who are active in their clubs. The dog club people were worse, maybe!)

Once your “preps” are pretty well established, consider joining A.N.T.S., a prepper network of folks ready to help others in the network in times of dire need. You need to be able to provide that help, if called upon, but then, someone will be there to come to your aid if necessary. As you connect with other people, there’s no need to tell them whether or not you have food storage or firearms or any other personal information. If someone starts asking too many questions, then that person or group isn’t the one for you. I’ve found that preppers respect the privacy of others and expect the same in return. Above all, trust your instincts. If a person, group, or situation seems to be not-quite-right, walk away. There are thousands of solid, trustworthy preppers out there who would open their arms to a single mom and her kids. You just have to find each other.

Training and knowledge on the cheap

Thanks to the Internet, and YouTube in particular, there is no shortage when it comes to information and training of skills in the survival and preparedness niche. You could easily become Super Prepper, simply by learning from YouTube videos and then practicing what you learn. Just a few skills to look for:

  • Canning
  • Pickling
  • Sewing
  • Knitting
  • Fire starting
  • Growing ______. (Name your fruit or vegetable.)
  • Packing dry food in buckets.
  • Sealing mylar bags
  • Storing water correctly
  • Purifying water
  • And on and on and on

I highly recommend that you spend some time in the Skill of the Month area on this blog. Every skill is suitable for the entire family to learn and at some point, single mom, you’re going to need  your kids to assist in order for the family to pull through during tough times. If you’ve given them the gifts of skills and knowledge, that will be a blessing to all of you.

Besides YouTube videos and resources here on The Survival Mom blog, it’s almost as easy to find free or very cheap training locally:

  • Sign up for classes that relate to preparedness. Community colleges are one of the best resources for this and you might qualify for reduced tuition. Be sure to talk with the admissions office, since they will know about scholarships and discounts. Do NOT take out a loan for this, since so much information and training can be had for free, but if these classes are in your budget, you not only will accumulate college credits but also meet other people with the same interests.
  • Community colleges also offer non-credit classes in the evenings and on weekends, and these are generally very inexpensive.
  • Find out if your city offers community classes. These will probably include things like guitar and interpretive dance but might also include skills you’re looking for as a prepper.
  • County and university extension classes are free or low-cost. You can usually learn about gardening, canning, food prep and other useful skills.
  • Retail stores often offer free classes. Cabela’s, ProBass, REI, craft stores and other specialty retail stores want buyers to learn their skills and, therefore, purchase their products. If a store offers classes for kids, that’s even better. Involve your kids with your survival learning every chance you get.
  • CERT classes. I’ve talked about my own experiences with CERT classes in my podcast. These are completely free and even furnish attendees with a basic emergency kit. Go to this site to search for classes near you.
  • Red Cross offers free and inexpensive classes online as well as in-person classes, which usually have fees.
  • FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute offers free online classes and these can be excellent sources of information on everything related to disasters from learning about hazardous materials to dealing with animals in a natural disaster.
  • Many libraries offer classes of all kinds and almost always, they’re free.

 Include the kids whenever you can

image by photogramma1

image by photogramma1

A single mom’s most immediate group of allies and support are her own children. At whatever ages they might be, start training them for everything from how to put out a small fire to calling 911 to administering CPR. Go through this list of 32 basic survival tips for kids to see what your children need to work on.

Fortunately, survival and preparedness involve knowledge and skills that are very easy to learn and lots of fun. Together, make a list of disasters that are likely to occur where you live. For example, if you live in the Midwest, you probably won’t need to teach them what to do if there is a hurricane, but knowing what to do in case of flooding may be more useful. Then come up with activities that will help your children learn what to do in that type of disaster.  You can do this on a regular basis in the same way that some families do a family game night.

A great resource that helps teach kids about preparedness with games and other activities is Ready.Gov/Kids. Another fun way to teach survival skill is to go camping. Let your children practice what they’ve learned in an environment where those skills are needed instead of just a “let’s pretend” situation.

Stock up on supplies as you can

Right along with learning and connecting with others, is the need to stock up on the food and supplies you’ll need to weather any storm. The best advice I have for you is from my book, Survival Mom.

Stocking up on food, extra toiletries, good quality tools, and
other supplies requires money. However, the good news is that a master
To Buy list will help set priorities, keep you on budget, and even provide
a shopping list when hitting the garage sale circuit.

Without a To Buy list, you may very well find yourself (a) spending
money on things you later discover tucked away in a back cupboard
or (b) snatching up purchases in a panic. This list helps save money
as well as time.

If your income is limited, you’ll need to become very creative. Estate sales, yard sales, going-out-of-business sales, Craigslist, Freecycle, and even programs like Swagbucks and MyPoints will need to become your new best friends. Also, try apps that help you earn money on your normal purchases. SavingStar helps you earn cash back on certain grocery store purchases. You get new offers each month and when your account reaches $5 you can request a payout.

Walmart has a Savings Catcher app that looks for better prices on your purchases and gives you a refund of the difference on a gift card. While none of these will pay out big bucks, they can help you save money towards preps without spending more money out of your pocket.

Some creative preppers use their skills to earn extra income by teaching those skills to others. One woman runs an ad on Craigslist for small canning classes she conducts in her home. Her classes each month are always full. This is a great way to make some extra money to buy supplies and may also give you the opportunity to network (and build friendships) with like-minded people in your community. Depending on the circumstances, you could even consider bartering supplies for classes.

An awful lot of survival supplies are extremely inexpensive. You can find used water barrels for less than $20. Wash out empty 2-liter soda bottles and refill them with water for cheap and easy water storage. For more expensive supplies, establish a savings plan, even if it’s just a few dollars per week.

The important piece, though, is to know what you need and then set priorities for your purchases, and that To Buy list will keep you on track and save you from impulse buys.

Take care of yourself

It’s way too easy to get wrapped up in the day to day struggle to make ends meet along with the constant need to feel like you and your children are ready for every possible disaster that may strike. That’s why it’s essential to take time to take care of yourself as well. If you are using all of your energy to be prepared, you’ll have no energy left to handle an actual emergency situation. And if something happens to you, you don’t have a spouse to take over.

Allow yourself time to rest and schedule in occasional alone time as well. Keep yourself health by eating right and keeping yourself fit as much as possible. And above all, make time for fun. If you’re always stressing over “what if” you can’t enjoy “right now” and that will have a big impact on your children.

The prepared single Survival Mom

Single moms can be every bit as prepared as any other person in the survival/preparedness community. In fact, they have an advantage over a prepper whose spouse is not on board and might even try to prohibit any type of preparedness activities or expense.

Single parenting is no easy job, but when there are plans and supplies in place for various emergencies, there will be less panic and a lot more peace.

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TeamSnap App: The Perfect Tool For Busy Families

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TeamSnap App: The Perfect Tool For Busy Families via The Survival Mom

I’m busier as a stay-at-home mom than I ever was when I had a full-time job. From keeping the house fairly clean to homeschooling the kids and trying to figure out what’s for dinner every night, life gets crazy. Add a few extracurricular activities, and there have been days when I thought my head would explode!

If your kids are in sports, clubs, Scouts, and even group activities at church, you know what it’s like to play chauffeur, master coordinator, minor injuries medic, and overall operations engineer! You also know what it’s like to realize how beneficial these activities are to kids. Kids are best prepared for the future when their education includes knowledge and skills they gain from a variety of activities.

My own kids have been busy in various sports over the years, but this year they are both on a rowing team. Three mornings a week, we travel to the shores of Lake Houston, and I drop them off for practice. When we first joined the team, it was a chore keeping track of when it was my turn to bring water, when practice was cancelled due to rain or high winds, and how I could let the coach know if one of my kids couldn’t attend. Emails would arrive too early, too late, or be overlooked altogether. Fortunately, my friend and team mom, Monica, discovered TeamSnap and team life suddenly became easier and less stressful.

I wish there was a TeamSnap to organize everything else in my life!

Easier to use than I thought!

My Android phone is already loaded with apps and I was hesitant to try TeamSnap. What? Another app? Another learning curve? That’s not what this busy mom needs!

I was so grateful to discover that the TeamSnap app is easy to use. It makes my life easier, not more complicated. I click open the app, click on our team name, the name of each of my kids, and then indicate whether or not they’ll be able to attend a practice, regatta, or team party. TeamSnap is how we parents coordinate our monthly parent meetings and how the coach can enter information about each team member, race results, boat assignments, and more.

TeamSnap app

A single click and I can see our schedule and click Yes/No/Maybe for our attendance.

Our coach now knows ahead of time who will be at any given practice and can plan ahead how to configure the boats among the rowers attending. I’m sure it was no fun at all prior to TeamSnap when an odd number of kids showed up and all his boats require even numbers of rowers!

Now, with TeamSnap, he has the capability to send out emails to the entire group or single out specific team members or parents for individual contact. Instantaneous text alerts are also an option, and so handy when there’s a last minute cancellation or the weather requires rain jackets.

NOTE: TeamSnap offers a free 4-month trial with full access and no need to sign up with a credit card. Check it out in person at this link!

The Tracking feature helps coach keep track of who has brought permission slips, who has finished assignments, paid their dues, picked up their uniforms, or who has taken their turn in a volunteer position. Little details like this can drive a coach, team mom, or coordinator to drink!

Beyond the sports scene

If your kids are more into drama, chess, choir, or band, TeamSnap is still your one-stop shop for staying organized. My daughter is in a girl’s book club with a gaggle of other book-crazy, teenaged, homeschooled girls. Their book choices change each month and different girls are assigned to host the meetings with discussion questions, author interviews, and snacks. TeamSnap is the obvious solution to keeping this group organized and in sync with each other throughout the month.

I decided to set up a TeamSnap account for this club myself, to give it a try as a coordinator, not just a parent. Using TeamSnap’s offer of 4 free months, there was no need to enter my credit card information, which I appreciated!

Set up is a no brainer, with easy to follow instructions. I recommend signing up your group or team, and then taking a few minutes to explore the TeamSnap website. There’s plenty of help available, including a Live Chat option. Katie at Live Chat was prompt and polite in answering my questions.

It’s not just for the kids!

TeamSnap’s capabilities lend themselves well to any group, not just sports and kids. A MeetUp group, for example, could set up an account and use it to keep track of attendance, meeting agendas, guest speakers, food assignments, and a lot more. A PTA group, book club, poker club, and even a direct sales group could utilize the app and TeamSnap website for planning and preparing for their events. Set up automatic reminders so there’s no confusion about meeting dates, times, and location.

TeamSnap app

TeamSnap connects to Google maps, so you always know where you’re going!

There are so many applications for this app (see what I did there?). On an Android or iPhone, it’s user and mobile friendly, and the app is free.

What groups do you belong to that TeamSnap could help coordinate? Four free months of use will give you a better idea of whether or not the app will help organize your group. The basic level is free, which is awesome, but give the free trial period a try so you can explore all the different options. There’s no need to enter credit card information, so you won’t be surprised on Month 5 with a charge you didn’t expect.

Hey, TeamSnap! How about creating a new app, LifeSnap? I could sure use that for everything else in my crazy-busy life!

Disclaimer: I was compensated by TeamSnap for my time and research. Since I already use TeamSnap, I was happy to share this with my readers.

TeamSnap App: The Perfect Tool For Busy Families via The Survival Mom

Lisa’s Stack of Books, 1st Quarter — GIVEAWAYS!

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Survival Mom book reviews

One of my life-long loves is that of books. Amazon Prime and I are best of friends, and I have an enormous stack of books, most of them unread. When I was younger, an unread book was an item of shame! Today, I chalk it up to being a busy mom whose love for books outweighs the time she has for reading.

I’m thrilled to begin this new quarterly feature on my blog, Lisa’s Stack of Books, as a way of sharing some of the newest books that come my way, either through my own purchases or from authors and publishers who want their books featured on my blog. I’m picky about which books I’ll profile, though.*

I hope you enjoy reading about the following books from authors Linda Loosli, Bernie Carr, Melissa K. Norris, and Toni Hammersley. I selected these books because they represent different aspects of preparedness: basic survival, frugal prepping, organization, and homesteading/spiritual encouragement. If you read any of these books, give me your own review in the Comments section!

Note that after each book review, you get a chance to win your own copy of the book! Each book has it’s own entry, so make sure you don’t miss any of them if you hope to win all four.

The Complete Book of Home Organization by Toni Hammersley

Toni HammersleyI would love to live Toni Hammersley’s life, or at least the one portrayed in this stunning, colorful book. Perhaps a better idea would be to have her come to my house and re-create it with all the savvy and style she exhibits in her new book. The Complete Book of Home Organization is a gorgeous book, just the type that catches your eye at a bookstore and finds its way to the cash register and your Visa card!

My daughter, age 16, is the primary promoter of organization in our household, and her eyes lit up when I handed her this book. We both settled down to enjoy the glossy photos of kitchens, closets, bedrooms, and even refrigerators, and the quick suggestions for transforming our own home into one of calm and clutter-free order. Toni’s practical and simple tips for organizing even the smallest spaces in your home are easy to follow, without the necessity of having to make expensive purchases at The Container Store.

One of my favorite features of the book are the Before and After photos from other home decor and organization bloggers. It’s inspiring to know that I can take a cluttered area of my house and transform it, too. I also appreciated the organization challenges and checklists. If your home is in need of some organization, this book will inspire and motivate you to action!
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The Made-from-Scratch Life: Simple Ways to Create a Natural Home by Melissa K. Norris

I’ve been friends with Melissa K. Norris of Pioneer Living Today for three years. Melissa was a very successful host on Melissa K NorrisThe Survival Mom Radio Network, and her listeners loved her homesteading tales and words of encouragement. Last month when I opened my mail and held this beautiful new book in my hands, it was an emotional moment. I was so proud of Melissa and her accomplishments. She always talks from the heart and shares the ups and downs of her own life as a modern-day homesteader.

The Made-from-Scratch Life is a book that prescribes living a simple life, moving from store-bought products to healthy and homemade versions and provides practical tips for gardening, canning, raising livestock, and preparing for tough financial times. Along with plenty of homey advice, Melissa includes some of the simplest and most delicious recipes you’ll find. Her ham and bean soup with parsnips is one of my favorites.

Melissa shares stories of how she learned to make the transition to a simpler life herself, with plenty of mistakes along the way. She shares Bible verses, inspiring quotes, recipes, a planting chart, and plenty of recipes. She’s convinced that a simple, back-to-basics life is soothing to the soul and this guide is her way of walking side by side with you as you, too, take the road less traveled to a made-from-scratch life.

When you purchase Melissa’s book, not only do you get all of this helpful information, but she also gives you some special bonuses as a thank you. The Made-From-Scratch Life Companion Guide and Workbook, the 5 Day Made-From-Scratch Life Bonus Fast Track e-course and The Amish Canning Cookbook Sampler by Georgia Varozza will help make your transition to a simpler life, well, simpler.
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The Penny-Pinching Prepper: Save More, Spend Less, and Get Prepared For Any Disaster by Bernie Carr

If you’ve been a prepper for very long, you know the overwhelming feeling that comes with being faced Bernie Carrwith long lists of expensive survival gear the experts claim you must have: Berkey water filters, a year’s worth of freeze-dried food, a hidden bunker, and on and on and on. Few of us can afford top of the line gear, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a chance to survive!

Author of The Prepper’s Pocket Guide and blogger at The Apartment Prepper, Bernie Carr rejects the notion that only the rich will survive and in The Penny-Pinching Prepper, she shares hundreds of tips for preparing, and surviving, on a small budget. You’ll love the compact size of her new book, its handy lists, and simple, budget-friendly DIY projects, such as an Easy Fireless Cooker.

From her advice for raising money for the purpose of prepping to hygiene, evacuations, safety tips, and even recipes, this book is packed with information for preppers who don’t have a dime to spare and even those with piles of cash in their stash!
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Prepare Your Family for Survival: How to Be Ready For Any Emergency or Survival Situation by Linda Loosli

Linda LoosliIn the hyped-up world of survival and preparedness, it’s always refreshing to find a sane, calm voice that says, “Ignore the loud, scary voices. Here’s what you need to do…” That voice would be Linda Loosli of Food Storage Moms fame. In her new book, Prepare Your Family for Survival, Linda did not disappoint. Her book is a large, colorful volume, filled with illustrations, checklists, and attractive graphics that made reading it a pleasure.

This is one of the best all-around family preparedness manuals to hit the market in a while. Disaster preparedness is a huge topic and Linda has managed to break it into do-able chunks in an eye-catching design that makes the book hard to put down. I’m so proud of Linda and all the work she put into making this book practical and family-friendly.

One feature that I haven’t seen in similar books are her lists for health remedies using apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, Epsom salts, rubbing alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide. Too often we see these listed as must-haves, but when you have a real emergency on your hands, you’ll need to know exactly how to put the to use. This book belongs on your survival bookshelf!
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Kudos to all!

Congratulations to these four authors for their vision, perseverance, and plain old hard work in producing these books. I’ll have another set of book reviews and giveaways coming up in May.

Survival Mom book reviews



7 Tips For Finding & Using a Tax Professional

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tax professional #BlockAdvisors

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Block Advisors. All opinions are 100% my own.

Given the choice between death and taxes, as a long-time small business owner, I’m not sure which is worse. Both are inevitable, both invoke dread, and both are a bit easier to handle with prior planning and thought.

As I’ve written on this blog and in my book, Survival Mom, having multiple streams of income is vital to a family’s financial stability these days. That extra money is also important when it comes to being prepared for a job loss, medical emergency, and disasters of any kind. Offering piano lessons, tutoring, writing e-books, selling products on eBay or at a farmer’s market, and yes, writing a blog, can all bring in additional income, but with that income comes the requirement of record-keeping, paying taxes and filing tax reports.

It’s not always easy to find the best tax adviser, someone who stays up to date with the latest regulations, laws, and sometimes, loopholes. It may take asking friends, relatives, or other business owners for references or checking out the services offered by Block Advisors. From my own experience, when you find a tax professional that is knowledgeable, approachable, and available, by all means, hang on to them! They will be worth their weight in, well, lower taxes and possibly even refunds!

How to find the best tax adviser

Over the years, I’ve discovered that my business is most successful when I do what I do best and leave the rest to professionals. When I launched my first home-based business more than 20 years ago, I knew I would need a tax professional to help guide me through the labyrinth of tax laws, reports, due dates, and tax payments. At a personal level, it was bewildering to make sure we took advantage of every possible deduction, paying what we owed, but not a penny more!

If you are just starting out with a business, or you want a good tax adviser for your own personal taxes, then learn from my experiences, and mistakes.

1. Do not hire a relative to do your taxes, even if they are a professional!

Your mileage may vary, but I discovered that I wasn’t at all comfortable with a relative knowing all about our personal finances. In my case, the relative was up to date with all IRS laws and definitely knew how to do her job, but there was always this nagging feeling that she was dropping bits of confidential information into the ear of her mom, and then that would be shared with another relative and then another.

When it comes to running my business, I look for the best professionals who are not relatives!

2. Hire someone with a track record and a permanent business address!

During tax season, anyone with a calculator can post an ad in the local paper or on Craigslist and offer their services as your new tax adviser! Untrained and without knowledge of the latest information from the IRS, they could end up costing you an enormous amount of money due to errors, missed deadlines, and possibly an audit. The IRS has been known to track down these types of tax preparers, simply by identifying returns with multiple errors!

Block Advisors is one company whose tax professionals go through annual, rigorous training to make sure every return is done correctly, the first time. As a small business owner, I know what it’s like to receive a thick envelope from the IRS with a list of errors made on a return or report, and it’s not a lot of fun to track down old receipts or other forms of evidence in order to avoid penalties.

3. Look for a tax professional who works year-round.

If you own even a very small business, you will no doubt have questions throughout the year about such things as medical expenses, the part-time jobs your kids pick up, and what receipts must be kept and for how long. When I helped a group of homeschoolers set up a co-op last fall, I was shocked by how many tax regulations we had to follow, and I had plenty of questions.

When you choose someone, or a company, to handle your tax returns, be sure they will be available to answer your questions throughout the year. With more than 280 offices around the country, by Block Advisors is available year-round, both for actual tax preparation as well as advice and even help with small business tasks, such as payroll and bookkeeping.

4. Choose someone who is a good listener and wants to get to know you.

Your income, expenses, circumstances, and family are unique in the world. A tax adviser should be willing to spend time getting to know you, your financial obligations, and your sources of income. With my blog business, not every tax expert out there is familiar with the various tax rules and laws that govern the specifics of what I do. Your tax adviser should be detail oriented, should ask lots of questions, and show a desire to work with you year-round and customize their services to your needs.

5. Flexibility is important

When our kids were in their baby and toddler stages, it meant a lot to me if our tax professional could come to our home or if they had flexible office hours. My husband had a crazy work schedule with his own business and sometimes, I just wanted to gather together all our receipts and dump them off for our tax person to organize!

Look for a company or a tax pro who is willing to work with your schedule. Do keep in mind that during the final few weeks leading up to April 15, the tax filing deadline, their lives will be completely insane!

6. When it comes to tax prep, cheaper isn’t better.

Go ahead and pinch pennies by buying store-brand toilet paper and stocking up in the dollar store, but with tax preparation, cheaper is not better. I pay a little extra for certain things just so I’ll have peace of mind. Our tax adviser has been a God-send, although probably not the cheapest one in town. I’ll never forget the year that we owed quite a bit in taxes and she called us to go over, once again, all our expenses and deductions. That one phone call alone saved us plenty of money to keep in our pockets, rather than paying to Uncle Sam.

When hiring a tax pro, be sure to clarify exactly what you’re paying for and what services you will be receiving. Just as it’s no fun to get a “Surprise!” from Uncle Sam, you don’t want one from your tax adviser, either!

7. Hire a tax professional who knowsthe IRS.

IRS tax auditors are among the most despised professions in the country. If you’re ever audited or if an IRS agent shows up at your door, you’ll want a tax professional who will be there for you, someone who has worked with the IRS, understands their system, and yet, is on your side. At that moment, you’ll be grateful that you hired the best and most knowledgeable professional around.

A hallmark of Block Advisors is their commitment to be there for you if the IRS ever does reach out and touch you with questions, requests for documentation, etc. Whoever you hire, ask what type of support you’ll receive if your return is flagged for an audit and what happens if your return contains errors.

Life is never stress-free and right around tax time, stress levels peak! If you’ve wondered if you really are getting the biggest refund possible, if you’re not sure whether or not you can deduct certain expenses, and, especially, if you have any type of business, large or small, I recommend finding a tax professional who is well trained. In the last several years, the IRS has hired thousands of new agents and will be enforcing fines related to the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. This may be the year that hiring a tax pro becomes a necessity, not a luxury.

Disclaimer: Block Advisors asked me to review their services and write this article, related to tax preparation. I was compensated for the time spent researching and writing this piece. As a small business owner, I believe in hiring a tax professional to avoid errors and over-paying taxes. 

tax professional #BlockAdvisors


Perfect, Portable Heat: The Honeywell Infrared Heater — GIVEAWAY!

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Perfect, Portable Heat: The Honeywell Infrared Heater via The Survival Mom

I’m in love with this heater and so is every other member of my family. Honeywell’s MyEnergySmart Infrared Heater arrived at my doorstep, perfectly timed with a cold spell that hit our part of Texas in January. Our older house, built in 1972, doesn’t have the greatest duct system, and it seems that our family room is always chilly.

honeywell infrared heaterIt’s been many years since I used a portable heater and naturally, safety was my first concern. Is this infrared heater safe on carpet? Do I need to worry about our pets wandering too close to the heat source? Does the exterior of the heater become too hot to touch?

The answers, as I discovered from the instructional manual and safety information, were:

  • Yes, it’s safe on carpet.
  • There is no blast of hot air emitting from the unit, and it’s perfectly safe around pets.
  • No, the heater does not become hot.

My husband remarked, “I like this heater because it doesn’t dry out the air. It just gives off gentle, warm air that is comfortable and never overheats the room.”

My son said, “I love this heater, and I’m keeping it for myself!”

Our winter energy bills aren’t especially high, but our house does have a few cold pockets here and there, and this infrared heater is just perfect for those areas. However, the unit is actually designed for larger rooms than our small family room (150 square feet or so).

A few other features I appreciate are:

  • The EnergySmart technology actually regulates energy consumption.
  • Regular use could cut down on our power bills.
  • There’s a LED panel that indicates power usage, the room’s temperature, and the desired temperature.
  • There are 3 different pre-set heat settings, and you can set your own custom temperatures.
  • Copper and stainless steel reflectors are used to enhance heating.
  • The unit is on wheels for easy transportation.
  • A remote control can be used to change settings from a distance. This is perfect for anyone with mobility issues.
  • The small unit would be perfect for dorm rooms and chilly bedrooms.

Win one for yourself!

I’m excited that Honeywell is providing a new Infrared Heater to one lucky winner, right here on my blog! I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.

Important details

  • Giveaway begins on Tuesday, February 16 and ends at midnight on Tuesday, February 23.
  • Open to U.S. residents only.*
  • Winner will be selected at random and notified within 48 hours of contest’s end. Winner will have 72 hours in which to reply to our email, after which a new winner will be randomly selected.

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* Wonder why some giveaways are for U.S. residents only? It’s not because of stingy sponsors but because of international laws and regulations. For example, Canada, a country I love, has different legal definitions for giveaways and contests than does the U.S. Winners in other countries may have to pay import charges. I wish it were different for my international readers, but ignoring these laws could cause big problems for some sponsors.


Perfect, Portable Heat: The Honeywell Infrared Heater via The Survival Mom

Disclaimer: I was provided with a Honeywell Infrared Heater to evaluate for this review and giveaway.

23 Medical Supplies Most People Overlook

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Med Supplies

A typical first aid kit provides only the bare minimum of supplies that a well-equipped home should have when it comes to health and medicine.  After giving this a good deal of thought, here are 23 additional medical supplies you should have on hand.  Some will be easy to acquire, while others may take more effort.

A few items are notated with an * and are to be used only by individuals with advanced medical training.  If this isn’t you, don’t cross the item off your list.  There may very well be a doctor, nurse, EMT or other individuals with training nearby, and if you have the supplies they need, it will be a huge advantage to keeping someone alive.

Medical Supplies You Should Have on Hand

1. N-100 High Filtration Face Mask/Respirator

The N-100 seals to the face and provides more filtration protection than the N-95.  It also has an exhalation valve. Here is more information about selecting face masks.

2. A secure treatment area

Being able to  attend to urgent medical needs in a secure area is something you may not have thought of. In addition to the presence of hysterical family members and friends whose loved ones’ lives are in jeopardy, there could be additional threats from outsiders. Take some time to plan where your makeshift treatment/triage area should be located.

3. Medical skills and ability

Acquire and practice knowledge, concentration, control, stamina, will, training, and expertise. By all means, take a First Aid and CPR class, but don’t stop there. Wilderness Survival classes are offered at REI stores and some community colleges offer classes for EMT students. Red Cross offers a lot more than just basic First Aid and CPR.

4. Spare battery for cell phone

This could be your own life-saving connection to the outside world. If you have a smartphone, download Red Cross apps as well as other survival apps.

5. Reference Materials

Merck Manual, JP Sanford (antibiotic guide), Tarascon’s Pharmacopea (Rx index), CPR & Cardiac Care guides, etc.

6. Penrose Drain Tubes

These can be used as tourniquets or drains, etc.

7. Suction Device, manual operation (non-electric)*

For anyone choking who is needing “suction” or as you “intubate” (only for advanced care professionals).

8. Foley Catheters*

Used for urinary blockage relief, but also for a make-shift “chest tube” when necessary!

9. Nasogastric Tubes and Large Syringe*

These can be used for Rectal IV instillation when an IV cannot be accessed.

10. Bouillon cubes 

Can be mixed with water for an electrolyte solution to drink when very ill.  The solution can also be administered rectally with the concept above as well.  Very handy to know and have on hand in a pinch.

11. Antibiotics

These will be a must-have in any post-collapse scenario! Check out this article for more details about how to stock up on antibiotics and which to buy.

12. Oropharyngeal Airways or OP Airways*

These can save a life if you know how and when to use them!

13. Fluids

Pedialyte is best, not Gatorade! You can also mix up your own with this recipe.

14. Over-the-counter medications

See list here.

15. LED Lights

You will need lights at night: headlamps, strobes (possibly for attracting moving vehicles or people nearby), reflective vests, powerful LED flashlights (for runners or operations with kit) & possibly a “surgical light”, for which we use a 12-volt car light connected to a car battery!


Hypothermia is a real danger outside when any patient is traumatized.

17. Ear Candles 

These are easy to carry and used to provide relief with ear pain.

18. Organic (not synthetic) Natural Multi-B Vitamins

19. Large Commercial Trash Bags

Used to contain waste, worn over your torso as a make shift “rain coat” (don’t forget to punch three holes in the “top” for your head and two arms), or for “shields” when dealing with bloody/infectious messes.

20. Needles and scalpels

Along with these, you’ll need the knowledge to use them properly.  Training is necessary to use these items, and DO NOT USE this stuff if you don’t know how to do so, ever! However, if a medical professional is able to provide assistance, they will be invaluable.

21. Reflective Cones

These are often nowhere around when we need one – “outside” in the “Outback” (or on the side of the road)!

22. Emotional Stress Treatment

Have on hand extra meds you and family members are already taking.  If you run out of special meds that treat acute episodes, it will definitely be a time to panic!

23. Comfort items

These may not have to do with “medical care” at all. Think of things like candy, DVD’s, animals in our care that we love, protective and security items.

Prevention is the best mode of “medical care” in the world. If we thought this way as a nation – before the accidents occurred – well, I’d be out of a job, wouldn’t I?

There are a few excellent medical websites that are prepper/survival focused:

Prevent first and make sure to gather these medical supplies you should have on hand!

Med Supplies FB size

Article by the Outback Doc. Get to know him at his website and blog, Outback Medicine.

27 Tips from a Master Gardener

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27 Tips from a Master Gardener via The Survival MomA few years ago, I attended a class taught by Marta Waddell, a Master Gardener in Arizona. I’ve referred to my class notes over and over again, and decided they were good enough to pass along to you!

February isn’t too early to think about gardening! It’s the perfect time to start planning, especially since some plants need to be started inside weeks before the final frost.

  1. Practice eating what’s in season locally. This will get your family used to eating seasonal produce, and, therefore, what you can grow in your own garden.
  2. Learn what herbs might help your family’s health issues.
  3. Marta recommends Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman.
  4. If you’re worried about too much shade in your garden area, plant dwarf trees rather than full-size trees.
  5. All heirloom plants are open pollinated, but not all open pollinated plants are heirloom.
  6. Try more than one variety of each vegetable to see what gives you the best results.
  7. Calorie crops, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, use much less space than grains.
  8. For survival, study what the poorest farmers in third world countries grow: Sorghum, peanuts, and chickpeas are three such crops.
  9. Another good book for those living in harsh desert climates is Extreme Gardening by David Owens.
  10. High quality tools are a must. Keep a bucket filled with sand and a bit of motor oil mixed in to clean off dirty gardening tools.
  11. Solarize your garden area to get rid of weeds a few weeks before planting season. Clear out weeds or scalp mow your garden beds. Moisten the ground well, and cover with a large sheet of clear plastic. Weight the plastic down around the edges with rocks or bricks. Weed seeds will germinate, but the heat will kill them. Leave the plastic sheet on for 6-8 weeks. This will reduce the rate of weed seed germination by 60-80%.
  12. A wire mesh trash can is good for sifting compost.
  13. Test the germination rate of your seeds yourself. Place ten seeds on a wet cloth. Cover and wait ten days. If eight seeds have sprouted, your germination rate is 80%. If only 5 have sprouted, the rate is 50%, and so on.
  14. Store seeds in the refrigerator in an airtight container. “Frost free” will draw moisture from seeds.
  15. It isn’t legal to save seeds that have been patented.
  16. Heat and moisture are enemies of seeds. The seeds may sprout, but they won’t grow anything. Stored properly, some seeds can last 5-10 years, but most will last just 2-3 years. Younger seeds will grow better.
  17. Mail order companies are best when it comes to buying seeds because they store their seeds in optimal conditions.
  18. Just because a nursery is selling certain plants does not mean that particular variety grows well in your area.  They are selling what they know people will buy.
  19. Never work the soil when it is wet or very dry and have your soil tested so you will know what additives it needs.
  20. Recyling your kitchen waste by adding it to a compost pile is great but won’t necessarily result in balanced soil.
  21. Transplant when it’s either a cloudy day or at dusk.
  22. Plan your garden so you’re planting for a staggered harvest. Otherwise, you may be harvesting tons of zucchini, for example, during a single week and then have to wait several more weeks for another zucchini harvest.
  23. Don’t water at night, and be sure to water the soil, not the leaves.
  24. Consider using gray water or water from rain barrels. Drip hoses are good for raised beds.
  25. A couple tablespoons of oil or a teaspoon of soap in a rain barrel will prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
  26. The best pest control is the eyes and hands of the gardener. Use soapy water to get rid of many types of pests.  (Don’t use a soap that contains citrus oils/ingredients.) Planting marigolds in the vegetable garden is another way to deter pests.
  27. Another of her favorite books, The Edible Ornamental Garden by John E. Bryan and Gardening When it Counts by Steve Solomon.

Originally published June 13, 2011.

27 Tips from a Master Gardener via The Survival Mom

A Survival Guy’s First Steps to Preparedness

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survival guyI love getting emails from readers and listeners to my radio show, and I try to answer them all.  This week I received an email from an unexpected source: a single guy!  Now, I’ve always suspected that about 25% of my readers are men, based on their comments here on the blog and from email I receive, but this email was especially meaningful.  The concept of preparedness was new to the writer, D.F., and I’ll let you read his letter for yourself.

Dear SurvivalMom,

I can tell you the day and the hour I started preparing for a disaster. It was just three days ago at 11pm on August 15th that me and a friend were talking about earthquakes and I realized that I didn’t even have one days worth of food or water in my apartment. I didn’t have a single flashlight or even so much as a candle. To say I was woefully unprepared would be an understatement, I was perhaps as unprepared as an individual can be. The realization of how vulnerable I was hit me like a truck. I kind of freaked.

With knots in my stomach I started searching for information on the internet, fearing I would have to wade through a million blogs by guys that think they’re the star of an action movie, thankfully I was very wrong on that point.

It didn’t take me too long to find your site and I was soon reading your post, “Lets help Aimee become a SurvivalMom”.  I immediately started feeling much better (your Momness is powerful). It was such a relief to realize that my first priority was a simple trip to the gas station and the grocery store.  This seems so obvious to me now that I feel foolish for feeling overwhelmed in the first place.

It wasn’t even twelve hours after deciding to get prepared that I had the bare minimum. I left the grocery store with two weeks of water and food, flashlights, batteries, candles, first aid supplies and many other essential items and goods that you and others recommended. I’m a single guy with no children and shopping has always been about grabbing a few ready-to-go meals and perhaps the ingredients for one or two cooked meals.  Shopping with the mentality of preparedness was like seeing a grocery store for the first time!

Since then I have purchased many of the items I would need to walk the thirty five miles to my sister’s house if I absolutely had to, begun stocking her house with essentials for her (she got right on board with me), her children and myself for a month, purchased a 22 rifle and stocked my car with the beginnings of a 72 hour kit.

I still have a lot to do.  It doesn’t seem like you can ever really be prepared, but three days ago I wasn’t even prepared for a ten minute blackout. Knowing that I’m well on my way to a month (with goals of much longer) of supplies and essentials feels great.

It feels odd for me to offer a tip to someone who has been at this for far longer than I have, but in your post “Seven Lessons Learned from a Two-hour Power Outage” you talked about the initial moments after the power went out being difficult. I’m a control room operator and one of my duties is training people how to do the job. When things go wrong for any number of reasons, I have seen people “lock up” for a few moments before their knowledge and training kicks in. Co-workers lives may just be on the line, and there are many millions of dollars of equipment at risk, every scenario is different and you may not have all the information you need to assess what has happened.  It is understandable why people may freeze. This is why I always drill training operators that if they are unsure in those first few moments to, “check their breakers, their lube oil pressure and their steam drum level”, and after that they’ll know what to do.

It works very well and I’m already drilling myself on what to do if there’s a power outage or in the moments after a disaster “Get dressed, put your boots on. If you’re dressed already then sit down and retie your shoelaces.” By the time I have finished tying my shoelaces, I’ll know what my next step should be.  Of course it doesn’t have to be shoelaces.  Anything simple but practical will do.  God forbid but if I ever see a mushroom cloud while I’m out of the house, people all around me will start to panic, but I’ll be looking for a place to kneel down and tie my shoe laces!

Lisa’s note:  I LOVE this tip! Focusing on a few, concrete activities helps calm the nerves, focus on an immediate need, and gives your brain time to back away from its fight/freeze/flee impulses.   Then you can assess the situation and take action.  Thanks for the tip, D.F.!

It’s taken me a while to get here but I’ve finally gotten to the purpose of my letter. Thank you! Your advice and the advice from like minded people may just be the most important information there is on the internet. That may sound dramatic, but it’s absolutely true.  The day may come where what I have learned from you already will save my life. I cannot imagine a more noble pursuit than sharing willingly and freely your time, experience and knowledge on such an essential topic with as many people as you can. I felt desperate to find out what I needed to know and there you were, my gratitude is deep and sincere. You’re beautiful.

Yours sincerely,


I wanted to share this letter with you because I know there are always newbies visiting this blog in search of, “What do I do first?”  D.F. started by first being aware of the need to be prepared and then immediately went into action.  I don’t think he realized that he was writing a tutorial for beginners, but here it is!

Check out these articles and downloads for more newbie help.

Originally published August 23, 2011.

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Survival Bartering: The Pros and Cons

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Survival Bartering-BarterTo trade by exchange of commodities rather than by the use of money.

Much has been written about the use of barter in a post SHTF/TEOTWAWKI* scenario. Barter is presumed to be the norm for conducting common transactions, especially at the beginning of the event (see Chile 1982, Argentina 2001). None of these discussions describe the true difficulties of using barter for containing daily common supplies and needs. This is survival bartering – when your very life may depend on your bartering skills.

Most people think barter is merely “I’ll trade you this for that.” In a pure, simple sense that is so. However, where the rubber meets the road, where theory smacks hard into the face of reality, it isn’t nearly that simple and easy. “Barter” is plainly not the same thing as “money” — just using things like matches, seeds, clean water, rounds of ammunition in place of coins and paper money.

The difference between survival bartering and using money

Like it or not, good or bad, “money”, as we have come to know it, is an effective means of exchange. We exchange money for the product and services we want. “Money” is very effective is because it is very generic. The currency we receive (or pay out) in exchange for products and services can be used to obtain whatever other products and services we want, when we want them (all other things being equal). We do not need to know exactly what we are going to use the money for when we receive it.

We can exchange money for food or clothing or medicine or fuel or transportation or entertainment, or simply hold on to it (save) for another day. “Money” doesn’t get stale or expire or simply go bad after some period of time (ignoring inflation and devaluation for the moment).

By contrast, when you are considering a barter exchange, you must consider at that exact moment what it is you reasonably expect to do with whatever item(s) you are receiving in the exchange. It is highly risky to accept an item whose usefulness to you isn’t clear.

This has obvious draw backs

You may not need an item today but need it tomorrow and now the opportunity to acquire it is gone.
You may take an item in exchange thinking it will useful but turns out it isn’t.
You may take the greater risk of accepting an item in exchange hope to re-exchange it later for something else, but that doesn’t pan out either.

For example, many web sites and blogs state that .22 ammunition will be the “new currency” in a post SHTF environment. To me, .22 ammo is only good if I have a .22 firearm. If not, I either don’t accept the exchange, or take on additional risk by accepting something I may (or may not) be able re-barter later for something I do need.

Another example: Consider a post-natural disaster scenario like Katrina. Suppose someone comes to you with a brand new big screen TV wanting to trade it for food. In more normal times the TV has value because you can use it right away. But after a disaster it might be weeks or even months before power and cable is restored to your area so what good is a big screen TV?

What exactly to store as barter items?

The answer is simple: It largely doesn’t matter.

There is no real way of know what exactly will be of exchangeable value in a post-SHTF scenario. Some items will probably always have a level of demand such as food, water, medical, defenses, fuel, etc. But those would likely be the last things you want to trade instead of keeping for your own use.

Websites and videos are full of suggestions for this or that  to accumulate for barter such as tobacco, alcohol, ammunition, salt, sugar, batteries, candles, needles and thread, even tooth brushes and dental floss!  In one video I recently saw the guy claimed to have over 50,000 (yes!) nails of all kinds stored for both his own building use and for barter. On another website it was posted that someone had stored so much TP in anticipation of Y2K problems that it took several years after Y2K to use it all up! Imagine the storage space need for all that!

There is also geography to be considered. Some items may have greater value to people in urban areas while people in rural areas put greater value on different items. Someone in a more Northern location will value warm clothes more than someone in Florida.

The reality is you simply cannot turn your home and pantry into an extension of WalMart. No one has enough money and space to allow that. If you are going to collect items with the intention of using them for barter, be sure they are things you can use yourself in your own life should the exchange value not be as significant as you imagined pre-SHTF (not to mention if a SHTF event never occurs at all).

Barter exchange has been around since the start of humanity. There is no reason to think that would change. But bartering for products and services is far different from our present currency exchange systems that requires a very different understanding of how markets work in order to be successful. It should not be thought of as just the same as using dollars or other paper currency.

Guest post by Master Po, originally posted February 7, 2011.

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The Quick Start Guide for Getting Prepared

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quick start guide to getting preparedThere’s just no telling when Armageddon will occur, nor is there a date scheduled, yet, for a zombie invasion. However, all this talk lately about the debt ceiling and a looming financial apocalypse has scared a lot of people. Many of them have done very little about getting prepared and are wondering, “Is it too late?”

You’ll know it’s too late when your pantry is empty, right along with grocery store shelves, no water comes from your tap, there’s no electricity, and fifty zombies are shambling up your driveway. Until then, you have time to prepare!  Here is The Survival Mom’s Quick Start Guide for getting prepared in a hurry.

One small disclaimer: I have absolutely no idea exactly what is going to happen in our country, around the world, or in your particular neighborhood or when. This advice is given to those who feel nervous about the future and want a game plan to get prepared quickly.

Step 1

Decide what you’re preparing for. This step helps clarify your focus and set priorities. While some things are the same for most emergencies, preparing for income loss, hurricane, power outage, earthquake, etc. each require a different approach.

Step 2

Examine your financial situation. How much money do you have to spend on preparedness? If you’re in a hurry to improve your family’s odds of survival, you’ll need a healthy amount of money on hand. Survival Moms (and Dads) who have been at this a while have spread out their expenses over many months and years. Do not go into debt in order to be prepared. You don’t want to face an uncertain future with credit card bills arriving every month. Do what you can with what you have.

Step 3

Food storage will be one of your main goals, regardless of what happens. Grocery store prices are rising, containers are getting smaller, and the consumer is losing out. Do a quick inventory of your pantry and see what you already have that can be set aside toward a one-month food storage goal. (One month is the minimum storage goal.)

Step 4

Make a list of simple breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that you can make with ingredients that do not require refrigeration, in case of a power outage. These recipes should be simple and easy to prepare. In the face of the apocalypse, do you really want to be slaving over a hot stove three times a day? I think not. They should also be things your family will really eat.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with planning on eating the same meals over and over again. There’s also nothing wrong with deciding that eating canned soup for lunch is a good thing. You’re establishing your back-to-the-wall food storage supply. The Famine Menu can help you stock up on the bare-bones basics.

Step 5

Make a grocery list of all the ingredients to make your recipes from Step 4 cover 31 days (Month #1) and then go shopping. If you can get your hands on coupons and can check the grocery store ads for discounts, so much the better.

Step 6

Besides food, you’ll need cleaning supplies, laundry soap, extra prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Your pets will need their own food and supplies. Print out a copy of my Costco TEOTWAWKI shopping guide to help you decide what other supplies your family should have on hand.

Step 7

Decide how you want to safeguard your finances. The prices of gold and silver have been rising steadily as the value of the dollar declines. Do you want to take a portion of your cash and purchase gold and silver? Do you want to have cash on hand in case of a bank holiday or some other disaster that would prevent you from using ATMs, money transfers, and other convenient bank services? Are you adequately insured? It’s hard to tell how a national financial crisis would affect insurance carriers, but with a policy in hand, you’ll have some recourse if your home is vandalized, your car is stolen, etc.

Step 8

Water is vital to survival, but it’s unlikely that a chaotic economy would necessarily shut down water treatment plants. If you are preparing for a different situation (pretty much any natural disaster), then you should store at least one gallon per person per day. A family of four needs at least 28 gallons to meet their needs for a week. You can buy a few cases of bottled water, but sturdier water containers are better. My own favorite is the lowly 2-liter soda bottle, cleaned out and refilled with water.

Step 9

Make a plan for keeping your home comfortable – cool in the summer and warm in the winter – without electricity. Many natural disasters and extreme weather events cause power outages. Even something as simple as high winds can cause downed power lines and outages that may take days to fix. Again, chaos in Washington D.C. doesn’t mean our power grid is in danger, but if government regulations cause energy prices to rise drastically, most of us will be looking for ways to use a lot less electricity, even during a heat wave or blizzard. You should have alternate ways of staying warm and cool, as well as ways to cook food and heat up water.

Step 10

Don’t take the health of your family lightly. Increased turmoil will cause more people to seek help from hospitals and doctors. Make sure you have a well-equipped first aid kit, download or purchase a good first aid book, and, if at all possible, have at least one person with current CPR and first aid certifications. Bonus points for someone with Wilderness First Aid or Nursing Assistant training.

In a medical crisis, you and your family might be on your own, at least for a while.

Step 11

We take transportation for granted, but you should have a secondary way to get around town. I recommend a bicycle with either a small trailer or baskets. If roads are blocked, the price of gasoline skyrockets, or an EMP renders your car useless, you’ll be glad you have at least a bike to get where you need to go.

Step 12

Consider some worst-case scenarios. What if a financial crisis causes a drastic increase in crime? What if riots and protests erupt outside your home or workplace? What if desperate family members show up at your door in need of shelter and food? It doesn’t hurt to let your mind run wild and picture these scenarios, and others, as long as you continue thinking and planning how you and your family might cope.

Step 13

You can’t learning everything there is to know about survival in just a few days. Check out my list of 30 survival must-have books and make a trip to a bookstore or the Amazon website.  A good survival library is worth its weight in $1600-an-ounce gold!

Step 14

How do you propose to keep what you’ve stockpiled? In other words, do you have a security system planned? This could be an actual security system installed in your home, but those aren’t fool-proof. Firearms make sense, but do not purchase a gun unless you are trained in its use or are committed to taking training classes and can frequently practice at a gun range.  At the very least, your family should have a shotgun (12-gauge is most popular although a 20-gauge will have less recoil) and a handgun (preferably 9 mm, .40 or 45 caliber).  I cannot stress enough the importance of training and practice.  How much ammo should you have on hand?  As much as you can afford.

Even if the end of the world doesn’t happen in the next few days, these Quick Start steps will turbo-charge your preparedness and put you in a solid position to continue on. No one is every so fully prepared they can afford to stop.  There’s always something more to learn, one more thing to do. Be sure, though, to let your mind be at peace, knowing you’ve made some important strides toward preparing your home and your family.

For a downloadable copy of this article, The Quick Start Guide to Getting Prepared. Originally published July 28, 2011.

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23 Must-Have Kitchen Items for Any Survivalist or Prepper

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kitchen must havesRegardless of how many #10 cans of “just-add-water-ready-to-eat” stuff you have, at some point you’re going to have to learn to use a kitchen in much the same way as your granny or your great-granny did, so we’ve put together this list of 38 essential kitchen items for any survivalist.

1. Matches

If you don’t smoke, why on earth would you need matches? Well, if you’re going to learn to cook like granny, that will probably include cooking on top of a wood heat stove or on a wood cook stove with an oven. I know there are ways to start a fire with a magnifying glass, some straw and some kindling, but believe me, matches are easier.

If you’re really good at starting and keeping a fire throughout the three daily meals, you could use as little as one match a day. If you’re not, 20 may not be enough. We have found that the most economical matches are book matches, like you get with a pack of cigarettes. They come in a box of 50 books, 20 matches per book, for about $1.50 in many stores. That’s a lot of lights for cheap. Wooden kitchen matches go for about $3.50 for 250 matches. See the difference? When you’re living off the grid, every penny counts.

2. Can-Opener

As an off-gridder, I’m definitely not talking about the kind of can opener that plugs into a wall. Have at least two good, sturdy hand operated can-openers. The newer ones from China do wear out. We’ve worn out quite a few. We also have an Army C-Ration P-38 can-opener. It takes a little practice to use this device, but once you get the groove going on it, you can open a #10 can in a few seconds.

3. Hand Grain Mill

We personally like the Wondermill Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill. (Read The Survival Mom’s review here.) For the money, it’s the best we have found. What can you do with it? Grind wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye, lentils into flour. It can also be used to make nut-butters, like pinion butter, walnut butter, chestnut butter. It will also make cornmeal. The uses are virtually endless, especially if you eat a lot of whole, natural foods. Not all grain mills can be used for this many purposes.

4. Cast Iron/Stainless Steel Cookware 

If you are going to be cooking over a wood stove of any kind, you need durable stainless steel or cast iron cookware. Aluminum (besides not being good for your health) tends to warp on wood cook stoves. Black, cast iron pans heat evenly, hold the heat for a long time and do not warp – not to mention giving you a little dose of iron in your food.

READ MORE: Check out all these uses for cast iron and this set of cast iron essentials.

5. Roasting Pans

Enamelware is best, and so is stainless steel. Make sure the roasting pan will fit into your oven! Wood cook stoves don’t have the same huge ovens as gas or electric stoves.

6. Tea Kettle 

Stainless steel or copper works best for this archaic kitchen appliance. In the winter, a steaming tea kettle on the wood stove not only serves as at-the-ready for tea or coffee, the steam warms and moisturizes the air. Just don’t let it boil down all the way before refilling it.

7. Colanders

Metal (stainless steel) is best. If you have or want some plastic colanders, understand that they will break over time, and most of them are made with BPA in the plastic.

8. Cookie Sheets

These versatile sheets can be used for breads, biscuits, cookies, for drying fruits or veggies. Avoid Teflon coatings or aluminum cookie sheets – get stainless steel.

9-21. Hand Utensils

Again, my recommendation is metal (stainless steel). It’s much better than plastic, and with stainless steel and cast iron cookware, you don’t have to worry about scratches:



Serving spoons

Serving forks

Slotted spoons

Pastry cutter

Rolling pin

Sharpening steel

Cheese grater/slicer


Potato peeler

Meat tenderizing hammer

22. Measuring Cups and Spoons 

Once again, stainless steel is the best choice for these. A 4-cup glass measuring cup with a pour-spout would be a nice addition, too. Pay attention to the measuring spoons and cups you use most and have at least one or two backups. Those also come in handy on days when you’re doing a lot of cooking and/or baking and reach for the same measuring tools over and over again.

23. Good knives

Good knives are ones that will keep a sharp edge for a reasonable amount of time, not go dull instantly upon use. If you can find old, carbon-steel knives in yard sales or flea markets, they are best – Old Hickory, Old Timers, Imperial are some brands to look for.

READ MORE: Check out The Survival Mom’s list of things to look for whenever you go to a thrift shop or yard sale.

Updated article originally authored by Sheila at SurvivingSurvivalism.

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Safeguard Your Income With a Financial Back-Up Plan

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financial planMany years ago, a friend of mine made a comment I’ve never forgotten.

“Every woman should have at least two different ways she can earn money.”

The Problem

Now that the economy has tightened up and many families are struggling to make ends meet, I appreciate the wisdom of this statement more than ever. It’s the principle of having a financial back-up plan, a concept foreign to most people.

If you’re into preparedness, you’re putting this principle into action, perhaps without realizing it. Your food storage is a back-up plan in case store-bought groceries ever become too expensive, difficult to access, or depleted. The vegetables in your garden are a back-up plan if your food storage supplies run low. (Back-up plans to your back-up plans are always a good idea.)

If you’re saving money, you’re already in the back-up-plan mode. Suze Orman, like all financial advisers, has long stressed the importance of being debt free. However, with the changes in our economy, she now says, “Save, save, save!” Your savings are a back-up plan to a possible job loss. If you’ve been buying gold and other precious metals, that’s a back-up plan to your cash savings!

There’s a vital need now more than ever to have a back-up plan to your source of income. The past few years have taught me that no job, no career field is truly safe anymore. I’ve seen teachers and attorneys lose their jobs overnight. The construction industry in our city is at an all-time low with its’ workers seeking jobs anywhere they can find them. A seemingly stable career can end in a flash with a pink slip. If that happened to you or your spouse, what would you do? Do you have more than one way of (legally!) earning money?

Taking Stock

Alternative ways to earn money is one of the best back-up plans you could have. My friend Pat, who passed along the advice, is not only a 4th grade teacher but also a licensed masseuse. Another friend runs a produce co-op and has learned how to design websites. Women are amazingly creative, and SurvivalMoms will always figure out a way to provide whatever their families need. SurvivalDads too, by the way!

Now is the perfect time to take stock of the interests, skills and knowledge you have.

  • What talents do you have that, perhaps, have been neglected due to the busy-ness of your life?
  • Is there a direct sales company you have long admired that offers quality products with a low start-up cost?
  • Did you once, long ago, prepare for a career that was sidelined for one reason or another?
  • Can one of your hobbies become a source of income?
  • Have any of your closest friends said, “You should do that for a living!” or “You’d be so good as a _____!”?  Maybe it’s time to take their advice!
  • Does your family participate in an activity or hobby that could be turned into a family business?
  • Is there a partially-finished college degree in your background? Could you dig up your transcripts, take a few classes, and complete it?
  • What need do you see in your community that you have the ability or desire to fulfill?

Be creative and think way, way outside the box. One of my friends decided to start a pizza delivery business to people living in the far outlying areas of her city. Sure enough, she began collecting orders and spent her evenings driving long distances to the homes of hungry, pizza-craving customers!

The internet opened an ever-expanding door for income opportunities, and most have the advantages of having minimal or no start-up costs and being home-based.

It’s not boom time in America anymore. No one knows when, or if, our economy will truly recover. A second or third source of income, however small, may be a financial back-up plan now, but could someday become your primary career.

Originally published March 17, 2011.

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Do You Have the Skills to Survive a Depression?

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depressionAnswer yes or no to the following questions:

Easy skills level: 

  1. Do you know how to sew on a button?
  2. Do you know how to use an oil lamp?
  3. Do you know how to boil an egg?
  4. Do you know how to ride a bike?
  5. Do you know how to keep houseplants alive?

If you answered yes to all 5 move on to the next level.

Medium skills level:

  1. Do you know how to cut up a whole chicken?
  2. Do you know how to hem or fix a rip in clothing?
  3. Do you have a stocked first aid kit in your home?
  4. Do you know how to build and maintain a fire?
  5. Do you know how to cook and season dried beans?

If you answered yes to any of the 5, move on to the next level.

Hard skills level:

  1. Do you know how to grown your own vegetables?
  2. Do you know how to use a pattern and sew your own clothes?
  3. Do you know how to can fruits and vegetables?
  4. Do you know how to start a fire without matches?
  5. Do you know how to raise chickens?
  6. Do you have a fully prepared emergency kit in your home?
  7. Do you own and know how to use a gun?
  8. Do you or does someone in the home know how to fish and hunt?
  9. Do you have a well-stocked pantry?
  10. Do you know how to make a quilt?
  11. Do you know how to bake bread from scratch?
  12. Do you know CPR and basic first aid skills?
  13. Do you have the physical ability to ride a bike?
  14. Do you know how to purify water for drinking?
  15. Do you know how to cook in a dutch oven with charcoal?

If you answered yes to all in this level, congratulations! You will survive. If you passed the easy and medium levels but failed the hard level not to worry. You are teachable. A Boy Scout learns 99% of these skills!

Contributed by Lisa Todd

Could Leaving the U.S be the Ultimate Prep — and Do You Have What it Takes?

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leaving the USI have to admit, this is a difficult topic to bring up because, to many people, it veers way too close to betraying the country of our birth. However, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. If I truly believe that utter chaos is coming to America in the form of an economic collapse, EMP, or some other horrific event, then why stay here? Why not find a small, obscure country and hole up for a while, thus protecting my family and myself?

I began researching this subject a few years ago when a reader contacted me and told me about her move to Chile. She and her husband had decided to make the move after much research. They were loving the clean air, pure food, friendly people, and a change in their lifestyle.

I was intrigued. Hmmm…could leaving the U.S. entirely trump food storage, a bug out location, and all the other traditional preps? I began to research residency requirements of various countries.

My first discovery was a shocker. Very few countries want me! They don’t want me, my husband, my family, my parents. Rules for residency can be quite strict, sometimes even requiring the deposit of a large sum of money into one of the nation’s banks. Some countries are quite frank about preventing people like me from coming into their country. To do so, I need to provide:

  1. Proof of health insurance
  2. Proof of regular income
  3. Background check
  4. Health report from a doctor for each family member
  5. Financial information
  6. Birth and marriage certificates
  7. Possibly proof you can speak the language of this country

Additionally, there are strict rules regarding time in country and visa requirements.

This is a stark and startling contrast to the mass human migration we’ve seen in the past couple of years. If citizens of Central America, Mexico, and nearly every other country can walk past our southern border without any of the above, including personal identification, then why do other countries make it so difficult, and, more importantly, where can a law-abiding, hard working American citizen go when they decide to relocate?

(To be fair, the U.S. does have a lengthy process for legal immigration, and it’s quite a difficult path, thus the popularity of illegal immigration.)

Plenty of questions, no easy answers

At one time I thought my family could just pick a country and move there. The entire world was our oyster! Where should we go? Australia? New Zealand? England? Somewhere in Europe? Obviously, we would want to go where English was spoken and where we could quickly blend in.

Well, it didn’t take long to find out that if I’m over 35, Australia doesn’t want me. Other countries may let us visit for a time, but do not allow long-term or permanent residency. The countries that are left are an odd mix:

  1. Chile
  2. Panama
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Hungary
  5. Ireland (ancestry)
  6. Israel (If you’re Jewish or have Jewish heritage.)
  7. Belgium

There are a few more, but the pickin’s are slim when it comes to finding a country that has less restrictive residency requirements.

It boils down to having money, ancestry, time, and/or flexibility. $100,000 will buy a passport and citizenship in Dominica. Ancestors from Hungary, going back 4 generations, can smooth the way for residency in Hungary and Hungarian citizenship. Convert to Judaism and you may become an Israeli citizen, complete with mandatory military service.

If you’re about to have a baby, or are planning one, Brazil is one of only a handful of countries that provides citizenship to every baby born within its borders. Permanent residency can be obtained in Chile, after living there continuously for five years.

As you can see, there is no simple path to residency or, if you choose, citizenship. And then there’s the nightmare of dealing with bureaucrats, long distance phone calls, websites and applications in a foreign language, and, in many cases, visits to a consulate or embassy that could be hundreds of miles away.

Gaining residency in another country is possible. Just not as easy as one would think.

More complications and considerations

If you are able to find a country that will allow temporary residence, and possible permanent residency, then there are tax considerations. The United States is one of only two countries that taxes its citizens no matter where they live and regardless of how long the have been out of the country. I’ve read horror stories of people whose families left the United States when they were very young children, grew up elsewhere, and the were taxed by the U.S. on the income they had earned in that country. Yep, the U.S. and Eritrea share this same tax policy. The only 2 countries in the world.

Something to consider, when researching an expat destination and residency, is what the taxation policy is of your country of choice. Some countries, such as Hungary, has a double taxation policy, which allows them to collect taxes from non-resident citizens — but then there are loopholes and exceptions!

The U.S. is dead serious about collecting taxes from expats. Not sure if it’s out of greed, entertainment for the I.R.S., or stems from a desire to punish anyone leaving the country, but stories like this one are far more common than you might think:

I just found out that despite my income earned and taxed abroad being a) below the foreign income exclusion limit, and b) covered by a bilateral tax treaty between the country where I have lived for the past 49 years, the IRS wants to tax it fully, leaving me with an effective tax rate of 61% from now on.

One of the reasons is that many of the required subforms, e.g. W-2, do not exist in this country (Finland). I sent them my Finnish tax decision along with a translation. They accepted the amount of my earnings, but gave me no credit for the local national tax paid. They have given me three weeks to refile, but the information that they want, such as Social Security and Obamacare payments, doesn’t exist here or is irrelevant to my situation. I am a pensioner whose sole source of income is a Finnish state pension, and I am fully covered by the Finnish health care system. Having worked only in Finland, I never paid into and am ineligible for Social Security and cannot, of course, sign up for Obamacare. They are threatening with draconian fines and seizure of assets so as to leave me destitute for the rest of my life.

So, you may find the ideal country that welcomes you with open arms. You can learn the language and start a new life, but no matter how far you go, the I.R.S. will track you down and demand their pound of flesh.

Oh, and there’s a sweet little federal law, FATCA (Federal Account Tax Compliance Act) that requires foreign banks to reveal the identity of Americans with accounts over $50,000. They have to had over names, addresses, account balance, account numbers and Social Security or other U.S. identification numbers. Banks who do not comply are punished, by the United States, with a withholding tax of 30% on payments from U.S. banks. Naturally, this has caused many foreign banks to refuse Americans wishing to open accounts, and who can blame them?

The Treasury Department has been unable to cite any constitutional, statutory, or regulatory authority which allows it to compel foreign institutions to collect and share the financial information of U.S. citizens.

Americans living abroad must file an annual report, the FBAR (Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report), by June 30, of each year, if they have a foreign account holding more than $10,000. Failure to file that report, and ignorance of the law is no excuse, can result in fines up to $500,000 and up to 10 years in prison!! Spreading that money between multiple banks may help you disguise the sum total for a while, but not forever. And, $10,000 is a pathetically small amount of money, considering the fact that the I.R.S. collected over $1 trillion in fiscal year 2015 (October, 2014 through January, 2015).

It looks like FATCA, FBAR, and these draconian policies are here to stay, forever, so it’s just one more consideration if you’re planning on leaving the U.S.

By the way, a little civics lesson here. FATCA was included in a quietly passed jobs bill. If a Senator or Representative would have voted against this bill, they would have been excoriated by the opposing party for voting against a “jobs bill”. The next time a politician you favor is accused for voting against a bill that seems altruistic, dig a little deeper to find out what else, exactly, was in that bill.

Loopholes & confusion

Countries that have lenient ancestry requirements still don’t make it easy for applicants. Take Ireland, for example. You may be granted permanent residency and citizenship:



A couple of years ago I was on New Zealand’s website, looking for information about residency and came away with a massive headache. A few forms on the Switzerland website were in German only.

To complicate matters (is that even possible?), these laws can change quickly and without notice. A country friendly to American expats could become hostile with just the election of a new president.

Lessons learned?

  1. Research, research, research!
  2. Simplify your lifestyle now and prepare to live on less money and with fewer belongings.
  3. Have your vital documents at the ready.
  4. Read the fine print.
  5. Take your time.
  6. Be patient.

Oh, be wary of professional expat advisers. I’ve come across a few that paint an alluring picture of the country and people but after more research, I discovered they were more interested in selling their services than in providing accurate info.

Why leave?

I answer that question and provide several historical examples of relocating — in fact, it’s highly likely your own ancestors relocated and that’s how you ended up an American citizen!

Are you ready to relocate?

After researching, studying, praying, and discussing a relocation, you’ve decided to take the plunge. But! Have you considered whether or not you are a good candidate for this major step?

One of the most critical factors in transitioning to a new location, whether foreign or domestic, is your ability to adapt to new situations. Is your basic temperament and personality one that is flexible? Do you enjoy new experiences and meeting  new people? When faced with an abrupt change in your life, do you adapt easily or do you resist the change? I know one woman who still, after several years, insists that she’s still married in spite of the fact that her husband divorced her and married someone else!

A move to another country is going to plunge you and your family into a world in which most everything is different and new:

  • Language
  • Customs
  • Food
  • Holidays
  • Housing
  • Attitudes
  • Entertainment
  • Technology accessibility
  • Laws
  • Climate

Some personality types adjust to these changes more easily. Others will require more time.

Along with adaptability are expectations. How realistic are your expectations for this move? Are you expecting a smooth and seamless transition? Thorough research, talking with other expats, and then actually visiting and spending time in the country or area of your choice will help keep your expectations well grounded.

Then there are the practical issues of age, health, time, and money. There’s no perfect age for moving out of the country. Younger people are likely in better health but with fewer career skills and less saved money. Young couples have each other to depend on but having younger children will make this quite difficult.

Imagine, or remember, taking all the kids to Target or the grocery store. That’s no easy task! Now, imagine taking them to a foreign country where English isn’t spoken and trying to find a place to live, decipher even the most basic written information, stand in line in various bureaucratic offices to get one license or document or another, and adapt to a completely different lifestyle. No easy task no matter how young and fit you are!

The process will be easier if your kids are older but then, at the high school age, they often don’t want to leave their friends, sports, and other activities. How easy will it be for them to develop new friendships in this new location and how will they go to college, in particular, if they aren’t fluent in the language? Those with grown kids and grandkids face the challenge of moving away and, possibly, never again being a part of their lives. As we age, health issues ultimately become a fact of life.

The health of each family member may impact whether or not a country allows residency. For example, Australia has been known to prevent families with autistic kids from coming into their country, even when the parents have viable, well-paying jobs waiting for them. And, if there are health issues of any kind, will you be able to find the doctors and care necessary in this new location and how will you pay for those services? Some countries, upon granting residency, require a fee for their national health insurance. Fair enough.

Now, the issue of money. Bottom line: the more you have, the easier it will be to find a country willing to grant residency quickly and the easier it will be to settle into a comfortable lifestyle. No surprises there.

But expenses add up even for the non-millionaires among us. It’s highly recommended that you visit the country, or area of the U.S., first before taking the plunge. That’s going to require travel expenses and time off from work. One family I know of had their hearts settled on Belize. They did the research, had contacts in the country, visited once, and on the second visit, realized the country was not for them at all, but by then, they had sunk a few thousand dollars into the venture.

The moving process can be quite expensive. What do you take with you? If it’s just the clothes on your back and whatever a suitcase or two can hold, that’s no problem. Most of us, though, will want to take other possessions. Yes, you can sell it all, but how expensive will it be to replace those items once you relocate and will the quality be what you want? A shipping container costs money and may take several weeks to arrive at the dock of your new country. In the meantime, you may have to live in a hotel or a furnished apartment.

In addition to the expenses of checking out different locations and the moving process is the financial requirements of just about every country I know of. Examples:

  • Costa Rica requires a deposit of $60,000 in a Costa Rican bank for those in the “rentista” category. You are paid $2500 per month out of that balance for 24 months and this becomes your monthly income, at least in part.
  • Antigua has an “economic citizenship” program that requires a government donation of $250,000, plus another $50,000 per family member.
  • Belgium requires that you have a salary of at least € 50,000 per year.
  • Hungary has a residency bond program. Deposit a little over $300,000 in one of their banks and you’ll have to pay another $60,000 as a processing and administration fee.

All countries will have fees for visas and whatever other bureaucratic fees they choose to apply. If the paperwork is not in English, that’s a hurdle to overcome and many countries require a face-to-face interview. In their language.

So what if you have little to no money? Is becoming an ex-pat out of the question? Not at all. In fact, if you’re adventurous, you may even prefer the much simpler lifestyle it brings. Rather than being barricaded in a luxurious neighborhood behind guarded gates, you can live among the locals, shop where they shop, hang out where they hang out, and learn the language and customs very quickly. This is pretty much how I lived when I traveled for months at a time and ended up living in both Germany and Israel.

In this video, I explain a few more considerations before you jump into the decision to leave the U.S.

Emotional ties

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the issue of deep, emotional ties to your home country and the loved ones you’ll leave behind. It’s interesting to see who can do this easily, without looking back, and who can’t. It’s not a matter of being callous and without emotional attachments, as these people wholeheartedly love the family members they leave behind. In some cases, they plan to help move them to their new location as soon as possible.

Deeply felt ties to America aren’t quite as easily cut as many think. “America” isn’t just a land mass but a way of thinking and how you view the rest of the world. And, it works the other way, too. Locals in other countries will have a different worldview and cultural norms. One article asks, “Does everyone in Chile lie?” You’ll miss living in a country where everyone pretty much has the same social norms.

You’re going to miss favorite foods and restaurants and ease of living. You’ll miss your favorite brands of clothing, your church, holidays spent with friends and family, and Amazon Prime! Depending on where you move, you will probably have to leave pets behind.

On their own, these may not seem like much, but together, combined with the foreign-ness of a different country may make assimilation far more difficult than you’d ever imagined, which circles back to my original question: How adaptable are you?

Is it even worth the bother?

Based on the huge number of hurdles and hassles, is it even worth considering leaving the U.S.? Well, that depends on your reasons for leaving. One family who chose to relocate to Chile did so because they believe a nuclear war is coming, it will mostly affect the northern hemisphere and they don’t care to suffer the long-term consequences. (Both have backgrounds as scientists in the nuclear energy field.) Based on their last email, they are still very happy with their choice.

If you’re convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that war is coming to the U.S., or an EMP, then why would you stay here and subject your family to the aftermath? Some believe that God’s judgment is coming on America — why not escape that, if possible?

My point is that the hassles and hard work of leaving will be worth the effort, or not, depending on your motivation. Once you make the move, remember that it’s not necessarily forever — if that thought helps get you through the rough patches.

A reader on Facebook wrote, “We tried it out in Panama for 2 years. I did not like it at all. I wanted to kiss the ground when we arrived back in the US a year ago. We made a ton of expat friends (and some local friends). But it wasn’t for me. You have to adjust to a very different way of life. I was unable to adjust. For those who are interested in learning more about Panama, there is a group, ExPats in Panama, that my friend admins. There are tons of people who’d love to talk to you about it.

We saved a ton of money by living there. We work remotely for a company (get a paycheck, even though the company was our own company), and so we were able to claim the foreign earned income tax credit for 2 years. It is fairly easy to become a resident of Panama, but I don’t know why you’d want to become a citizen.  If you lived like the locals live, you could easily live on $1,000/mo. If you want to live the same lifestyle in the US, then it would be more toward $3,000/mo as reasonable.”

Could you ever leave the U.S. for good? What is your motivation to leave, or stay?

Learn more

I’ve learned a lot from these resources:

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The Dental Survival Kit

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dental survival

Dental Preparedness

Over the years, we have written hundreds of articles on medical preparedness for short or long-term disasters. Many now include medical kits and supplies to add to survival food storage and items for personal protection. Yet, few who are otherwise medically prepared seem to devote much time to dental health. Poor dental health can cause issues that affect the work efficiency of members of your group in survival settings. When your people are not at 100% effectiveness, your chances for survival decrease.
History tells us that problems with teeth take up a significant portion of the medic’s patient load. In the Vietnam War, medical personnel noted that fully half of those who reported to daily sick call came with dental complaints. In a long-term survival situation, you certainly will find yourself as dentist as well as nurse or doctor.
Anyone who has had to perform a task while simultaneously dealing with a bad toothache can attest to the effect on the amount and quality of work done. If your teeth hurt badly, it’s unlikely that your mind can concentrate on anything other than the pain. Therefore, it only makes sense that you must learn basic dental hygiene, care, and procedures to keep your people at full work efficiency. It could easily be the difference between success and failure in a collapse. In normal times, however, you should understand that the practice of dentistry without a license is illegal and punishable by law. Seek modern and standard dental care wherever and whenever it is available.

The Survival Dental Kit

The prepared medic will have included dental supplies in their storage, but what exactly would make sense in austere settings? You would want the kit to be portable, so dentist chairs and other heavy equipment wouldn’t be practical. You would want it to be easily distinguished from the medical kit.
We’ve mentioned that gloves for medical and dental purposes are one item that you should have in quantity. Don’t ever stick your bare hands in someone’s mouth. Buy hypoallergenic nitrile gloves instead of latex. For additional protection, masks should also be stored and worn by the medic.
We’ve researched dental items that should be in the dental kit of those that would be medically responsible in a long-term survival community. After consulting with a number of preparedness-minded dentists, we have put together what we believe will be a reasonable kit that can handle a number of dental issues. Items that would be practical for  the survival “dentist” include:
• Dental floss, dental picks, toothbrushes, toothpaste or baking soda
• Dental or orthodontic wax as used for braces. Wax can be used to splint a loose tooth to its neighbors.
• A Rubber bite block to keep the mouth open. This provides good visualization and protection from getting bitten. A large eraser would serve the purpose.
Cotton pellets, Cotton rolls, Q tips, gauze sponges (cut into small squares)
• Compressed air cans or a bulb syringe for drying up saliva on teeth.
• Commercial temporary filling material, such as Tempanol, Cavit, or Den-temp.
Oil of cloves (eugenol), a natural anesthetic. Often found in commercial preparations such as:
-Dent’s Toothache Drops (benzocaine in combo with eugenol)
It’s important to know that eugenol might burn the tongue, so be careful when touching anything but teeth with it.
• Other oral analgesics like Hurricaine or Orajel (Benzocaine)
Zinc oxide powder; when mixed with 2 drops of clove oil, it will harden into temporary filling cement. Here’s a video of the procedure:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3rTF4c26Po
• Spatula for mixing (a tongue depressor will do)
Oil of oregano, a natural antibacterial.
• A bulb syringe to blow air and dry teeth for better visualization, and as a diagnostic tool to elicit discomfort in damaged teeth. A can of compressed air may be an alternative.
• An irrigation syringe to flush areas upon which work is being done
Scalpel #15 or #10 to incise and drain abscesses
Dental probes, also called “explorers”.
Dental scrapers/scalers to remove plaque and probe questionable areas.
Spoon excavators. These instruments have a flat circular tip that is used to “excavate” decayed material from demineralized areas of a tooth. A powered dental drill would be a much better choice, but not likely to be an option off the grid.
Elevators. These are thin but solid chisel-like instruments that help with extractions by separating ligaments that hold teeth in their sockets. #301 or #12B are good choices. In a pinch, some parts of a Swiss army knife might work.
Extraction forceps. These are like pliers with curved ends. They come in versions specific to upper and lower teeth and, sometimes, left and right.
Although there are more types of dental extractors than there are teeth, you should at least have several. Although every dentist has their preferences, you should consider including the following in your dental kit:
-#151 or #79N for lower front teeth
-#150A or #150 for upper front teeth.
-#23, best for lower molars
-#53R, best for upper right molars
-#53L, best for upper left molars
• Blood-clotting Agents: There are a number of products, such as Act-Cel, that help control bleeding in the mouth after extractions or other procedures. It comes a fabric square that can be cut to size and placed directly on the bleeding socket or gum.
• Sutures: A kit consisting of a needle holder, forceps, scissors, and suture material is helpful for the control of bleeding or to preserve the normal contour of gum tissue. We recommend 4/0 Chromic catgut as it is absorbable. It’s small enough for the oral cavity but large enough for the non-surgeon to handle. Don’t forget a small scissors to cut the string. More information on suture materials can be found later in this book.
• Pain medication and antibiotics. Medications in the Penicillin family are preferred if not allergic. For those allergic to Penicillin, Erythromycin can be used. For tooth abscesses, Clindamycin is a good choice. These antibiotics are discussed in detail in the section dedicated to them in this book.
Just as obtaining knowledge and training on medical issues likely in a disaster is important, the study of dental procedures and practices is essential for the aspiring survival medic.

More dental resources

dental survival kit

Article contributed by Joe and Amy Alton, the authors of the 3 category #1 Amazon Bestseller “The Survival Medicine Handbook.  See their articles in Backwoods Home, Survival Quarterly, and other great magazines. For over 600 articles on medical preparedness in wilderness, disaster, or other austere settings, go to their website at www.doomandbloom.net.The opinions voiced by Joe Alton, M.D., and Amy Alton, A.R.N.P. are their own and are not meant to take the place of seeking medical help from a qualified healthcare provider. 

Back to Basics Living Bundle: Over 60 ebooks, online courses, planners and more!

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600x400Bundle-DealSkills and knowledge trump gear and miscellaneous stuff when it comes to survival, and this brand new Back to Basics Living Bundle will provide you and your family with hours and hours of great information related to many different areas of being prepared.

WHAT IS A BUNDLE? With the popularity of ebooks and online courses, “bundles” have become a hot trend. A bundle is simply a collection of related ebooks, online magazines, e-courses (online classes) and, occasionally, collections of podcasts. You pay a single fee for access to the entire lot and then can download it to as many computers and other electronic devices as you wish.

This Back to Basics Living Bundle is impressive. When I first took a look at the ebooks and contributing authors, it was a “Wow!” moment. There is so much great information in this bundle and best of all, it’s not just for preppers. There’s something for everyone with more than 60 ebooks, an online magazine included, 2 excellent planners (one for food storage and the other for homeschoolers), and 6 online classes! The price is $29.97, if you want to jump in right now! (Downloads are all available immediately upon payment.)

Interested in learning more about healthy eating?

Ridding family diets of GMO ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, gluten, and other unwanted ingredients has led millions of  us to overall better  health. What you’ll find in this bundle are these ebooks:

  • Homestead Cooking With Carol
  • Cooking With the Seasons: Winter Edition from Herbal Academy
  • Oh Lardy’s Guide to Fermenting Fruit and Vegetables
  • Empowered Eating

Switching From Store-Bought to Homemade

This has been a trend I’ve been promoting on the blog for the past year or more. In my home, we’ve switched to homemade condiments, seasoning mixes, salad dressings, personal care products, and even salad dressings! The Back to Basics Living Bundle provides even more suggestions for making this change with these ebook titles:

  • Off the Shelf: Alternatives to the Condiments, Toppings, and Snacks You Love
  • Whole Wheat Bread Making
  • DIY Face Masks and Scrubs
  • The Complete Guide to Natural Cleaning
  • Pickling Primer
  • Homemade Beauty Essentials

On a tight budget?

I don’t exaggerate when I say the bundle has something for just about everyone! Too many of us are having to tighten up the budget more and more each year. In this bundle, there are some excellent resources:

  • From Dirt to Dollars: A Guide to Selling at Farmers’ Markets
  • The Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Cooking
  • The Debit Card Envelope Budget
  • Six Dollar Family (From Six Dollars to Six Figures)
  • Handmade Gifts From the Kitchen

Love organization and planners?

I was thrilled to see one of my favorite food storage planners in the bundle — the one from Jodi and Julie of Food Storage Made Easy!  It typically sells for $14 and is much more than just a planner. Jodi and Julie have included plenty of their best tips for getting started with food storage and keeping track of what you have.

60+ ebooks, 6 online courses and more for #homesteading, #prepping, #healthyliving. $29.97 thru 1/24.…
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Homeschoolers will have access to My Color Coded Homeschool Planner from blogger, Jennifer Osuch, and getting organized will be easier with printables and family/household schedules from these ebooks:

  • “Get Your Life Back” Home Organization Bundle
  • Easy Peasy Chores
  • Family Systems: How to Automate Your Housewife Life

Honestly? For $29.97 — take my money already!!

Preppers — You’re included, too!

Reader, Elizabeth, asked me, “I am looking for ebooks that would be useful to have on hand in a post-event, no power situation.  Would you say these would qualify, or are they more for pre-event planning?”

I read through the list of ebooks and online courses and found plenty that will help preppers now and after a worst case scenario. By the way, you’ll have the option to buy a USB flash drive containing all the ebooks and other materials. If you choose to spend the extra few dollars for that, store that flash drive in a Faraday container to protect it from something truly catastrophic, such as an EMP or coronal mass ejection.

For Elizabeth, there are several books ideal for preppers:

  • The Everyday Carry Guide
  • Prepping Crash Course
  • The Complete Book of Preppers Lists
  • Your Own 72 Hour Kit Plan — with printables
  • Protein Power — ebooks with tips for raising chickens, rabbit, and fish
  • …and then all the homesteading and gardening ebooks and courses.

There are so many resources that you’ll want and need to pace yourself. I recommend downloading everything to the computer(s) you use the most and then, if your electronic devices are networked, upload one or two ebooks to a tablet, ebook reader (Kindle), or your smartphone. Print out the planners and printables that will be most helpful to you and add them to your files and/or binders. Organization is a major key to being prepared.

Once the bundle is purchased, you own these books and resources.

I do hope you’ll take advantage of this bundle. Knowledge and skills are the one area of preparedness that you’ll never lose and they can never be stolen.

Click here to read more details and purchase the Back to Basics Living Bundle!


The 8 Deadliest Threats to our Homeland BOOK REVIEW & GIVEAWAY

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failures of imagination

Imagining the worst. You’ve done it. I’ve done it.

We’ve imagined a shooter walking into the darkened theater as we’re enjoying a Marvel movie with the kids. We’ve imagined the airplane on take-off suddenly plummeting to the ground.

Whatever the scenario, for sure, there’s no lack of imagination on our part. If you’re a Survival Mom reader, chances are you are very aware of threats that endanger our homes, families, and lives.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with many decision makers in our government, and Failures of Imagination by Michael McCaul highlights this sad fact.

Following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the 9/11 Commission Report, observed, “The most important failure was one of imagination.” Collectively, the best and brightest among military, national security, law enforcement, and government agencies at all levels, simply did not recognize the potential threat of coordinated airplane hijackings — and 2,977 moms, dads, sons, and daughters lost their lives.

The deadliest threats

Failures of Imagination highlights 8 threats that are neither outlandish nor impossible — threats that, McCaul assures us, have been actively considered by terrorists.

These 8 threats are:

  1. A “decapitation strike” on America’s political leadership at the U.S. Capitol
  2. Detonation of a “dirty bomb” smuggled into Texas across the Rio Grande
  3. A foreign agent connected to China tampering with an American presidential election
  4. A shooting rampage at the Mall of America the day after Thanksgiving
  5. A devastating and debilitating attack on the East Coast’s power grid as part of a wide-ranging cyber strike
  6. Radicalized “black widows” releasing a deadly strain of smallpox at Disney World
  7. A jetliner explosion over downtown Los Angeles — on Oscar night
  8. Russia invading the Baltic states, neutralizing the NATO Alliance, and threatening the American coastline

To anyone keeping up with the headlines, these events, although extreme, could easily be featured on tonight’s 6 o’clock news. Many of us have become numb to yet another terrorist attack, but even for those not interested in hearing about terrorism, terrorists and enemy nations continue to focus their malignant attention on all of us.

An attack on Mall of America

The feature that makes Failures of Imagination highly readable and entertaining are the short, fictionalized vignettes of each attack. Through the eyes of victim and attacker alike, we see the event played out as though it were a novel, but then, each scene switches to a real world analysis of the attack in an EYES ONLY report to the President.

I’m no fan of shopping malls, and shopping in general, actually, but I’ve visited the Mall of America, and this particular attack caught my eye. I’ve never forgotten the terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya back in 2013.

Chapter 4, Black Friday, introduces the reader to a fun loving father and son team whose passion is roller coasters. They travel around their country seeking the biggest and fastest coasters, with their final, tragic destination being the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge at the Mall of America. Coinciding with this long-anticipated visit is the arrival of another cast of characters, American Somali terrorists. Radicalized by members of a Minneapolis mosque, this group of well-armed, well-trained gunmen, driven by intense hatred for all things American, target shoppers randomly, killing 267 and wounding 1,191.

This particular vignette was riveting because it traced the journey of an American born and educated man, Omar Othman Ali, from his life as a cab driver, barely making ends meet, to becoming the mastermind of the mall attack. Hundreds, and probably thousands, of other Muslim men in America make a similar transition, which is unsettling, too say the least.

The EYES ONLY report provides an assessment of damage, current state of affairs in the Minneapolis area, and then McCaul provides in depth information, answering the questions, could it really happen and what can we do to stop this?

His proposed solutions include:

  • Catch more foreign fighters in the United States.
  • Catch more foreign fighters abroad.
  • Shine light on the “Dark Web”. Ironically founded and still funded by the United States, the Dark Web is where much of the planning by terrorists occur without much danger of being discovered.
  • Use conventional military resources to target commanders.

Something for everyone

Based on my readers’ responses to past book reviews, I know that apocalyptic fiction is very popular. For those readers, you will completely enjoy the fictional dramas that open each chapter. The stories, although brief, captivated my attention. These are very well written.

For readers who enjoy military strategy and current events, the non-fiction portions of each chapter provide plenty of analysis and strategizing. There will likely be both old and new information here but the creative format is fast paced and challenges the reader to put their own imaginations to work. McCaul says, “We need to imagine the worst in order to prevent it.”

Visit the official website of Failures of Imagination and enter this giveaway to win one of 10 copies!

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Top 10 Survival Mom Articles & Best Resources in 2015

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Hard to believe that The Survival Mom blog is going on 7 years old! In blog years, that’s like 84!

This past year, my team and I accomplished quite a lot. We published 2 mini-guides related to my Skill of the Month series, and in November, I published my newest book, Emergency Evacuations: Get Out Fast When it Matters Most.

Along with a Skill of the Month series (you can see the entire series of articles and skills here), we also focused on helping families save money with my 52 Weeks Savings Plan series of monthly articles (now being transformed into a full-length book!).

NOTE: We will be adding new resources and tips to each skill in my Skill of the Month! Be watching for those throughout the year!

I also saw the need for Survival Moms to connect with each other for support and established a few new Facebook groups. Feel free to join in!

Wary of Facebook? I don’t blame you. If you want to participate in these groups but don’t want to set up a personal account, use a different user name for a Facebook account.

Besides connecting hundreds of people via social media, 2015 was a year of solid, quality articles that focused on the myriad of subjects related to being prepared: health, fitness, self and home defense, prepping, organization, and much, much more. Browsing through our 2015 archives won’t disappoint!

For the record, though, here are the top 10 articles posted on my blog in 2015. Enjoy!

1. 65 Pieces of survival wisdom from the Great Depression

2.  EMP Survival and the First Things You Should Do

3.  7 Reasons to Buy Old Cookbooks

4.  The Top 8 Deadly Myths About Survivalism

5.  Tight Space Prepping Decor

6.  5 Food Storage Lessons Learned From World War II

7.  24 Ways to Prepare For Your Garden in the Dead of Winter

8.  Planning an Edible Landscape

9.  13 Reasons a Rural Survival Retreat May Not Be the Safe Refuge You Might Think

10. STOP! Don’t Throw Away These Treasures!

You may also be interested in these statistics:

  • About 1,000,000 people visit the Seattle Space Needle every year. The Survival Mom blog was viewed over 4,000,000 times in 2015. If it were the Space Needle, it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it.The busiest day of the year was July 17th with30,747 views. The most popular post that day was How basic can you get? List #1 for beginners.
  • Where did all these visitors come from? From over 219 different countries!
  • In 2015, there were 187 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1,531 posts.

I’m looking forward to 2016, and all the new things it will bring! Thanks for being part of The Survival Mom family.

A Year From Now…

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karen lamb quoteWhat do you wish you had started back on January 1, 2015? An exercise program to build your strength and endurance? Stocking a food storage pantry? Paying off debt and saving money? Losing weight for overall physical health?

Whatever it is, make 2016, the year it happens. Every tiny bit of progress builds to one major accomplishment.

To help you out, I have these resources for you:

Lose weight/get in shape: Skinny Survival Moms (and others) on Facebook

Save money/get out of debt: 52 Weeks Savings Plan group on Facebook

Food storage pantry resources


13 Food Storage New Year’s Resolutions

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food storage resolutionsStoring food, say a month or two’s worth, is no longer the habit of a fringe group of Doomers. Everyday moms like me have an extra stash of food set away for those “just in case” events.

1. Don’t let “perfect” get in the way of “it’s good enough.” You don’t need freeze-dried food to have a decent food storage pantry. Cans of food, lots of cans!, will do just fine. Stay focused on stocking up on shelf-stable food your family will eat and stay within your budget.

VIDEO: “Don’t let the ‘perfect’ become the enemy of the ‘good’.

2.  Do your best to protect stored food from the enemies of food storage. All of these will cause your food to deteriorate more quickly: heat, humidity, pests, oxygen, light and time. Heat is the worst enemy of all, so do everything you can to store the bulk of your food in the coolest part of the house.

READ THIS to learn more about the enemies of stored food. By the way, these enemies affect food in emergency kits, too.

3.  Try a few new varieties of food from companies like Emergency Essentials, but first, buy the smallest containers possible for a taste test. With each purchase, check for flavor, fresh-looking color, and then use that food in multiple ways to see if it’s a good fit for you. My family loves freeze-dried corn and I buy it, knowing that we can use it in chowders, stew, my Mexican rice recipe, and a whole lot more. The more versatile a food is, the more value it has.

NEW TO FOOD STORAGE? Read my tips for placing your first order with a food storage company here.

4.  Don’t stock up on foods that will disappear once the kids find them! At first, I stocked up on things like juice boxes and granola bars, only to find that they had mysteriously disappeared, leaving only the wrappers behind! My kids saw them and figured, “Hey, Mom’s finally buying the good stuff and hiding it from us!”

5.  Buy what you actually like and will use and resist the temptation to stock up on something just because it’s super cheap on double coupon day! At one point I had about 15 bottles of salad dressing that we never used and 2 years later, they were all such a disgusting looking color that I threw them out.

6.  Do keep your food storage area(s) free from pests. Diatomaceous earth, sprinkled around the floorboards of your pantry area is a good, non-toxic method for controlling pests. I also set out small containers of cornmeal mixed with borax as a safe way to kill off bugs. Given enough time, a really determined rodent can chew through the plastic of a 5-gallon bucket, so keep an eye out for rodent droppings.

7.  Stay focused on buying food that can be used in multiple recipes rather than just-add-hot-water meals. Those quick meals are fine for short term emergencies, but you want a pantry that will contain healthy ingredients for delicious meals — more of a long-term solution.

8.  Set a goal of collecting 12 new recipes that you and your family love that require only shelf-stable ingredients. If you already have a good start on a balanced food storage pantry, you’ll find that you already have many of the required ingredients stored. With fresh, new recipes, you’ll spare your family of food fatigue if you are ever completely reliant on that stored food.

READ MORE: My book, Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios, has 2 full chapters that will help you decide which recipes are best for food storage purposes and how to calculate how much of each ingredient  you’ll need.

9.  Start rotating that stored food, if you haven’t done this already. This is simply the process of using the oldest food on the shelf and replacing it with new food. If you’re conscientious about food storage conditions, heat, especially, your food will stay fresher longer, but if you have food that is more than 5 years old, begin using and replacing it.

10. Stock up on comfort foods. If your kids love macaroni and cheese, buy macaroni in bulk and repackage it for longer shelf life or buy it from a food storage company that has already removed the oxygen and sealed it in a can. Buy cheese, butter, and milk powders, and you’ll be able to make that mac-n-cheese years from now without having to buy any fresh ingredients! Chocolate chips, jelly beans, and other candies are other comfort foods to consider.

LEARN MORE: Use a vacuum sealer, like a Food Saver, to repackage foods like nuts, chocolate, and more. Here are my video instructions:

11. Don’t get lazy when it comes to repackaging food! Rule of thumb: if a food comes in a cardboard or flimsy plastic bag, it must be repackaged. I have full details in this article.

12. Add a little something to your food storage every time you go to the store, even if it’s just a single can of store brand soup. It really does add up over time.

13. There’s more to life than food, so also include cleaning supplies (I buy a lot of white vinegar, baking soda, and bleach) and toiletry items. These categories lend themselves very well to coupon shopping.

When you stock up on food, you are buying it at today’s prices and planning ahead for a time when those prices will increase. Food price inflation is tricky because it isn’t always about the number on the price tag, but the size of the package and the number of ounces the package contains. When I compare cans of tuna for sale now with cans of tuna that I’ve had in my pantry for a few years, the older cans are noticeably larger — but the price is the same! Food price inflation is happening but most people aren’t aware of it.

More resources for you

food storage resolutions

Scrambling to Survive in a Collapsing Economy

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economic collapse

One of the first acronyms I learned as a new prepper was TEOTWAWKI.  The End Of The World As We Know It.  I knew from reading James Rawles’ Patriots that the end could come suddenly, within just a few days as America’s banking system collapsed upon itself.  Another, more drastic version was spelled out for me in an online article, “The One Hour Meltdown.”  Neither vision of the future was pleasant, but I was skeptical about the concept of a sudden economic collapse.

Instead, a slow decline, a de-evolution, of our lifestyles and our economy may be far more likely.  Continued high levels of unemployment, for example, are eroding away at America’s middle class.  Worse still, is the fact that long-term joblessness causes individuals and families to exhaust their savings, retirement funds, and max out credit cards in their attempt to stave off bankruptcy, evictions, and home foreclosures.  As each safety net is consumed, people become more and more entrenched in the growing underclass, and in today’s economy, it’s going to be more difficult than ever to recoup what has been lost.  TEOTWAWKI has become a reality for millions of Americans, and the slow decay continues.

The proof is in the numbers

Currently, around 48 million Americans are living below the poverty level, measured by an income of $24,230 or less for a family of four.  The median income has decreased to levels seen in the mid-1990’s. Depending on whose numbers you trust, the unemployment level is either 5%, according to the federal government, or upwards of 25%.

The unemployment rate depends largely on where you live and the health of local business and industry. As the oil and gas industry has taken a huge hit in 2015, employment in this areas, as well as other related businesses, has dropped. A few years ago on a road trip, we stopped in Yuma, Arizona, and it was a virtual ghost town with dozens and dozens of stores and restaurants closed and out of business.

READ MORE: Do you know what the actual poverty levels are for different sized families? Here is a table that provides that information.

A record number of more than 94 million people are no longer in the workforce.  The percentage of employable males between the ages of 25 and 54 who are unemployed is around 12%, up from 6% in 1980. Today, only 44% of Americans consider themselves to be “middle class”, down from 53% in 2008, and, incredibly, 49% believe they are “lower class”.

The average age of a worker earning just minimum wage is 36. 52% of American workers make less than $30,000.No wonder American families are hurting.

READ MORE: Coping with a personal financial crisis? I wrote this just for you.

Bottom line: Americans are earning less and working less.  Jobs have simply disappeared, and this leaves millions of us more vulnerable than ever to an economic collapse.

The saddest ending of all

A slow decline of a society is more sad and tragic than a sudden collapse.  After all, what is the more awful to watch, an animal dropping dead from a single rifle shot or one that lumbers along in pain from a not-quite-mortal wound, finally dropping, exhausted, miles away? At some point in the future, we’ll wake up and realize that our country has been lumbering along and has finally collapsed.  TEOTWAWKI isn’t always sudden.  Sometimes it’s slow and sad.

Back when Russia was the USSR and the Iron Curtain was firmly in place, I traveled through such glamour spots as East Berlin, Belgrade, and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).  I was struck by the widespread poverty, from patched up cars from the 1950’s to equally antiquated fashions.  Grocery stores were virtually empty, the scarce goods available were poor quality, technology was ancient as vendors used abacuses to calculate sales, and only a very few people at the top of the food chain enjoyed the comforts I took for granted.  When I think of a slow collapse of America, this is the snapshot that comes to mind.

Preppers and survivalists will inherit the earth

We are currently in a small window of time in which we can prepare our families for an economic collapse, whether it happens in one day or continues far into the future, “lost decades”, as they say.  The concept of preparedness is based on taking steps before a crisis to insure your family’s well-being afterwards.

Recent reports tell of record numbers of Americans resorting to dumpster diving in order to find food.  Preppers and survivalists with deep pantries filled with buckets of wheat, SPAM, and soup will be spared that indignity!

READ MORE: Dumpster diving requires more skills than you might think!

Here are a few proactive steps to take in the face of an economic collapse.

  1. If you’re relying on a solvent Social Security system to see you through your retirement years, you’re already in trouble. If the government gives it to you, they can take it away. What can you do to earn more money on the side to invest in hard goods, such as food storage, possibly precious metals, moving to an area that is less populated, or buying a vehicle that is more likely to be EMP-proof.
  2. However, for the time being, DO take advantage of any and all forms of government assistance if you qualify. You paid into the system and you might as well get the help you need as long as the federal government remains solvent.
  3. Give a lot of serious thought to how you might earn extra money. I started this blog when I was in my later 40’s — so don’t use age as an excuse to not try something new! Assess your bank of skills and knowledge and how you might be able to leverage them to start a small business out of your home.
  4. Review every expense paid by cash or debit and anything paid for with a credit card. Slash and burn unnecessary expenses.  It’s surprising how little we actually need, even though cutting out beloved expenses can be painful.  I cried when I had to cancel my son’s guitar lessons, but our family budget couldn’t handle the expense any longer, and I was able to find free lessons online.
  5. Set aside a few months worth of food suitable for long-term storage, and then continue stocking up. If your food is stored safely and correctly, there’s really no such thing as having too much, since you can always share with others.
  6. Fuel prices will likely escalate at some point and car upkeep and insurance are always dependable money-drains. What can you do now to minimize your dependence on car travel?  Can you switch to doctors, stores, and businesses within walking or bicycling distance?  Imagine, now, that gasoline is $6 a gallon, or not available at all, and begin making changes accordingly.
  7. Along with fuel, energy prices are headed sky-high. The appliances in your home that use the most electricity are your air conditioner, heater, water heater, and stove.  Do you have more than one way to cook food and heat water in order to save on the monthly bill?  What about staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer?  Excessively high rates for power are common in countries with struggling economies, so having a plan and the right supplies is crucial.
  8. Don’t count on solar. It continues to be prohibitively expensive, even with government and power company assistance.  It takes a decade or more to recoup the expense of a whole-house solar system, and the electronic components are susceptible to EMP.  You’re better off buying smaller solar-powered products such as battery chargers, a solar oven, or a solar-powered refrigerator, although that, too, is costly.
  9. Learn how to produce some of your own food by gardening and raising whatever livestock your circumstances allow. Backyard chickens have become so popular that many towns and cities are revising their regulations to allow chickens, and in some cases, other animals, including bees.
  10. Pay off debt and tackle the mortgage. Remember, farmers in the Great Depression lost their farms because they couldn’t make the payments, and in some cases, because they couldn’t pay the property tax.  Even adding $50 or $100 to a mortgage payment will reduce the principal.  If your home is free and clear, start a monthly savings plan so the annual property tax bill can be paid promptly.
  11. Save money. Even if the dollar should be devalued, paper money will still have some value. It would be better to have $5000 in a devalued dollar than nothing at all!  Even if such an extreme scenario never occurs, the average period of unemployment is approaching one year.  Anything in savings will, literally, buy you and your family time as you seek employment and other sources of income.
  12. Become frugal now. Whatever money you have in savings will last a lot longer if you know how to pinch a penny until Abe screams for help!
  13. Consider investing in precious metals. No, you can’t eat gold or silver, but precious metals have always been of value.
  14. Don’t count on bartering as a lifestyle. Remember, that in order for a barter exchange to be successful, you have to have what the other person wants or needs.  If all you have are airplane bottles of whiskey and I’m a non-drinker, do you really think I’m going to trade my food or medical supplies for your booze?  There’s definitely a place for bartering, but too many people see it as the solution rather than a possible option.
  15. Stay up to date with dental and medical issues. Drastic changes to our health care system have already happened, with more to come. If our economy continues its downward slide, only the very wealthy and well-connected will be able to have top-notch medical care on demand.  If you’ve been putting off the annual physical, surgery, or any other procedure, it’s time to make the call, set the appointment, and take care of it.
  16. Get in shape. Not the most popular of survival topics, but if you are at a healthy weight and in average to above-average shape, you’ve already improved your health, making medical issues less likely.

A final word about an economic TEOTWAWKI

The worst part about an economic collapse is the unfairness of it all, and that brings me to my final and most important tip.  Guard your mind and your heart against bitterness and anger.  Most of the recently unemployed are there through no fault of their own.  Hundreds of thousands of hard working, responsible Americans have lost homes and property because of decisions made by those in government, finance, and business who continue to live in luxury.

Survival begins with a positive mental attitude but anger and resentment consume energy, cause depression, and increase feelings of victimhood.  Instead, make the decision to be proactive and self-reliant.  When you do that, you’ve taken power away from those you resent and have empowered yourself.  That’s a sign of a true survivor who’s ready to face whatever comes.

economic collapse

Could a tiny house be the answer to your bug out dilemma? VIDEO

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bug out location tiny houseI doubt there is a prepper topic more popular than “bugging out”. Search the term on Google and you’ll end up with nearly 2 million results! Add “bug out bags“, “bug out vehicle” and “bug out location” to the mix and you’ll be overwhelmed with information — reading material for a lifetime.

It’s relatively simple to come up with items for a bug out bag and a bug out vehicle could be an old Ford pick up truck you pick up for a couple thousand dollars. The priciest bug out item, by far, is a bug out location, that is, if you want something more secure and sturdy than a tent or a lean-to.

This is where a “tiny house” might fit in with your plans for bugging out.

When I first heard of tiny houses, I knew it wasn’t for me. Not so much because of the small size but because those espousing the beauty of tiny houses were hipsters, cool singles with no messy kids or the need for a home office. Yes, they looked mighty cool sitting on their tiny porch in front of their tiny house, but as any mom will tell you, put 4 or 5 people in 200 square feet for more than an hour or two, and someone won’t be walking out alive.

I couldn’t get the idea of a tiny house out of my head, though. I even started following a couple of tiny house Pinterest boards and was intrigued enough to check out a few online floor plans — and that’s when it hit me. A tiny house could be the perfect answer for the biggest bugging out dilemma of all, and that is, “Where do we bug out to?”

What the heck is a tiny house?

In order to be considered an official “tiny house”, a dwelling should be less than 400 square feet. Considering that the average master bedroom in a typical home runs right around 300 square feet, a tiny house is stinkin’ tiny!

Only about 1% of all real estate transactions involve tiny homes, so it’s not like this is a huge and growing trend. Rather, it’s a housing option that fills specific needs for certain people.

Advantages of a tiny house

For the purpose as a bug out location, a tiny house has many advantages. In fact, I’ve almost convinced my husband to buy a few acres and begin building a tiny house on it — first, one for us and then one for each of our kids!

Tiny houses are an affordable option because fewer square feet obviously requires less expense for building materials and labor. Now, some of these tiny houses are virtual works of art made of expensive woods, with beautiful, intricate detail work, but a bug out location only needs to be secure and sturdy. The smaller size also allows for a quick build, and no need for advanced construction skills. In fact, this college student built his own tiny house in response to his frustration to high college housing costs.

As a very small shelter, not a whole lot of land is needed. Even on a rather small lot, say 1/2 an acre, a tiny house leaves a good deal of land available for a very large garden, chickens, beehives, and an outbuilding or a second tiny house. Half an acre is very budget-friendly in a world of survival experts who recommend many times more than that.

In fact, with the money saved, maybe you can afford more easily to buy a tract of land in a prime location or spend the money saved on fencing, which is quite expensive, or farming equipment, or a second tiny home right next door!

TIP: For the most realistic piece of information I’ve ever read on the realities of rural living and that enormous bug out piece of property touted by the survival experts, read this ebook by my friend, Patrice Lewis. It’s worth every penny of its $1.99 price tag.

Once you’ve built your first tiny home, it will be easier to build a second, and then a third. Why might you want multiple tiny houses?

  • A bug out location for your grown children and grandkids
  • A separate home office
  • Use as a guest house
  • Storage
  • Homeschool classroom

In fact, a large family (or survival) group could easily build a survival community without the need for a large amount of land. Having close relatives and friends nearby is a huge advantage. If we ever do build our own tiny house, you can bet that we have 2 more planned — one for each kid!

A few more advantages to consider:

  • Blueprints can be found online. Some are free, others are fairly inexpensive.
  • Tiny house designs are well-planned and make good use of every square foot.
  • It’s likely you’ll be able to build your tiny house using cash — no need for a loan or mortgage.
  • A tiny house could come in handy for families in danger of losing their home. 400 square feet is way better than a homeless shelter or living out of your car.
  • Some building materials can be found for free or are very inexpensive.
  • A well-insulated tiny house will be inexpensive and easy to keep warm or cool.
  • A tiny house would be easy to conceal in a wooded area.
  • These can be built indoors (a large garage, outbuilding, or even a storage unit) and then transported to your property.
  • Each house can be upgraded over time and as needed, with a porch, an additional room, etc.
  • Depending on where the tiny house is located, you can utilize the outdoors for laundry, cooking, and entertainment. Build a patio, add a barbecue, a fire pit, etc.!
  • Far less maintenance, easy to keep clean as long as you resist the urge to keep only the items you absolutely need. Less time spent cleaning means more time available for all kinds of homesteading activities, online work, etc.
  • Once built and situated on land, your tiny house becomes an inexpensive getaway on weekends and vacations.

It’s not the answer for everyone

This past summer, my family spent a week in a tiny house. At just around 500 square feet, it was plenty tiny for 2 adults and 2 adult-sized teenagers! We were fortunate that it overlooked a beautiful, lonely beach, but we were actually in the house only to sleep, cook, and to use the shower/toilet.

We spent hours outside on the small porch or down at the beach. I felt that the very small single room that housed a kitchen sink, tiny oven, tiny refrigerator, and virtually no counter space was designed for preparing only a quick meal like a sandwich or to heat up some soup. The fire pit outside was far more practical for cooking something in a cast iron pot.

This tiny beach house had a few windows but, overall, the house was dark and even during the day, we needed to use the overhead light. This particular house had no storage at all, other than a single shelf above the toilet and one small cabinet in the kitchen. For sure, much better use could have been made of the space available.

Fortunately for us, the weather was beautiful and there was no need to stay cooped up inside the tiny house all day and night. That would not be true in colder weather or in parts of the country that experience a lot of rain and snow. In that case, I’m not so sure our family would have been on speaking terms after a week!

A tiny house may be perfect for one person, perhaps two, but humans need some privacy, some alone time, and that’s hard to come by in a couple hundred square feet. One woman wrote about staying in a cute tiny house with her mother and pointed out that when it came time to use the restroom, the entire tiny house was the restroom!

There’s also the consideration for a few basics of living:

  • Cooking — What type of stove/oven will you use and how will it be powered?
  • Sanitation — Planning to use an outhouse or outdoor shower is all fine and good when the weather cooperates, but what about at night? During the winter?
  • Adding babies, toddlers, young kids to the mix can turn a much larger home with every creature comfort into total chaos. Imagine what it could do to 200 square feet!
  • How will pets fit into your tiny house plans? In extreme weather conditions, how will your farm animals survive?
  • Security issues. Tiny houses have been known to be stolen! Yes, the entire house! Consider how  you will keep that from happening and the steps you’ll take to make your home and property as secure as possible.
  • Noise! If you’re alone, you won’t have to listen to the chatter of other people but add just one more person and some bad weather, and not being able to have silence might drive you nuts.
  • Most tiny house designs have just a single room with no separate spaces designated for sleeping, eating, studying, etc. This makes it difficult to stay organized.

And then, there is the ever-present government, at various levels, with zoning regulations and building codes. Even on your own land, you may not be allowed to park, or build, your tiny house.

You may very well love the concept of a tiny house as a bug out location or for something more permanent, but make sure you and everyone in the family has realistic expectations.

A few design tips for your tiny house

Lack of privacy is a concern, so consider adding a room divider and a tiny, separated toilet/shower area.

Counter tops that are hinged to the wall can be lowered when a workspace is needed and than raised back up to create more floor space.

Be creative with furnishings and choose those that provide storage space. Have strict rules about adding more stuff. When your home is 300 square feet, it won’t take much to turn a tiny house into a hoarder’s paradise.

A tiny house doesn’t necessarily need a foundation unless you plan on keeping it one spot permanently. Many tiny house owners keep their homes on a trailer with wheels, ready to move it somewhere else when the mood strikes. In fact, for some, a tiny house on wheels has become their alternative to an RV.

For energy, add solar panels, use propane tanks, or possibly connect the house’s small electric system to a windmill or even a generator powered by natural gas. More importantly, plan on living a lifestyle that requires little or no reliance on electricity, especially the power grid.

A composting toilet and an outside well will provide your tiny house with the basics for sanitation. It won’t make for an easy lifestyle but for a bug out location, especially in the midst of a major crisis, hauling in a few gallons of water per day will seem like a small inconvenience.

Continue to apply common sense. Have one or two fire extinguishers in the tiny house and ask your insurance agent about coverage for the contents of your house. The house itself is unlikely to qualify for coverage, but that could depend on your insurance company and state regulations.

So, could a tiny house be the answer to your bug out dilemma?

A tiny house will provide an inexpensive shelter, far more secure than a tent. It can be built inexpensively, placed just about anywhere, and is portable, depending on its size.

Compared with the far less practical bug out location recommended on most all survival sites, this is one you can actually afford to build, own, and maintain. A tiny house isn’t the answer for everyone, but for some, it will be a perfect fit.

VIDEO: A few more thoughts…

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tiny house bug out location

65 Pieces of Survival Wisdom From the Great Depression

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survival wisdom great depression

It was the best of times, it was the very worst of times. America’s Great Depression of the 1930s was a time of starvation and subsistence survival for many families. Decades later, many survivors of those years hold on to the survival lessons they learned, from hoarding pieces of aluminum foil to eating lettuce leaves with a sprinkle of sugar. Frugality meant survival.

Today, most of us aren’t living quite the same bare-bones lifestyle of the Great Depression, and photos from that era are difficult to comprehend. In a photo from my own great-grandparents, I see a family group wearing tattered clothing, standing on the porch of a dwelling that can hardly be considered something as sturdy as a house.

Yet, those people went on to ultimately live productive lives with an inner strength gained from having lived through the worst.

Survival wisdom, Great Depression

I spent some time earlier this year researching the Great Depression years and was most interested in even the smallest life lessons to be gained from those “worst hard times.” Here are 65 of them.

  1. Families traveled to wherever the work happened to be. They stuck together as much as possible.
  2. Life insurance policies were cashed in to try and survive for just a few months longer in their “normal” worlds.
  3. If possible, homes were very often refinanced in an effort to save the family residence.
  4. Clothing had to last as long as possible and women (mostly) became expert seamstresses, especially at alterations. One creative woman used the fabric from the inside of a casket to sew beautiful holiday dresses for her children.
  5. In areas of the Dust Bowl, cattle were fed tumbleweed and moms learned how to can tumbleweed to feed their families. Some had to find food wherever possible to keep from starving.
  6. During heat waves, people slept on their lawns or in parks.
  7. Many stores allowed people to buy on credit and they just kept track of what was owed. Sometimes they were repaid, sometimes not. Some store owners ultimately lost their businesses.
  8. It wasn’t unusual for people to live out of their cars and trucks.
  9. When there was no cash, payment was made with eggs, fresh milk, or produce.
  10. A family with a cow and a garden was considered “rich”. Those two advantages alone meant the difference between a well-fed family and one that was near starvation.
  11. Many Americans were too proud to accept charity or government help.
  12. It was important to maintain appearances. Individuals still had a lot of pride, regardless of their circumstances. Mothers still wanted their children to look their very best.
  13. When the soles of shoes were worn through, pieces of rubber tires were used as replacements.
  14. Thousands and thousands of entire families were displaced. Very often, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins ended up living in one house, or one vehicle, as the case may be.
  15. Desperate people would sometimes beg outside of restaurants, and yes, there were those who could still afford a restaurant meal.
  16. Many kindhearted farmers kept workers on payroll as long as they possibly could, even if meant paying them with produce.
  17. Some families ended up living in tents or lean-to’s.
  18. Many became migrant farm workers, traveling from harvest to harvest in order to stay alive.
  19. Anything that could be freely collected and sold, was. Driftwood was collected, split and sold as firewood.
  20. Many men joined one of the government programs that were part of the New Deal. One group, the Civil Conservation Corps, built dams, roads, campgrounds, and were trained in fire fighting in national forests.
  21. Banks closed quickly and without giving any notice. You never knew ahead of time when your own bank would close its doors.
  22. Back in those days, banks were revered. It never occurred to anyone that a bank could close and their money would be gone forever.
  23. Most people were willing to do any type of work. My own relatives became moonshiners!
  24. Just about everyone had a garden and most gardens were enormous. Since 20% of the population still lived on farms, even those in cities still had country roots and gardening know-how.
  25. Neighbors and family members were supportive of each other, donating meals and money whenever possible.
  26. Missions were there to feed people but many of those missions eventually ran out of money.
  27. All food was made from scratch.
  28. To what extent any individual or family was affected by the Great Depression depended on large part where they lived. Not all areas were affected in the same way.
  29. Hunting and fishing were major ways in which families were fed.
  30. Everyone, including the kids, found ways to earn money. There was a team mentality that brought everyone together for a common goal.
  31. Unfortunately, loss of income wasn’t a good enough excuse to not pay rent or the mortgage, although some landlords, in particular, were willing to extend credit.
  32. There was virtually no sense of entitlement. Everyone knew they would only survive if they worked hard to do so.
  33. At this time there was no such thing as “retirement”. Everyone worked until they became physically unable to continue.
  34. Some towns had “welfare budgets”. Money was loaned from the town to individuals, but there was a strict keeping of books. Some towns even published in their newspapers how much each person owed and repayment was expected.
  35. There was a sense of dignity in even the lowliest of jobs. One woman tells the story of a notions salesman who visited their home every few months. He looked very dapper and wore expensive looking clothing, even as a door to door salesman.
  36. The Great Depression affected people in all walks of life. Only the most elite were immune from its effects.
  37. When banks closed, you were left with, literally, only the cash in your pockets or hidden away at home. Everything else was GONE.
  38. Many discovered strength through optimism and looked at their disadvantages as personal challenges that could be overcome with ingenuity and hard work.
  39. Foods that would normally have not been eaten became commonplace at the kitchen table, such as bean sandwiches and codfish gravy.
  40. Many mothers learned to “not be hungry” as they gave larger portions to their husbands and kids.
  41. Food prices at that time were fairly high when compared with wages. For example, a general laborer made $2 per day. The WPA paid $1 per day. But bread was 10 cents a loaf, milk 8 cents a quart, and eggs 7 cents/dozen.
  42. Meals were simpler than those we eat today and, therefore, cheaper. There were virtually no prepared foods at grocery stores.
  43. Families learned to shop at the very last minute on a Saturday night to get bargains on fresh produce that would go bad over the weekend. (Stores were closed on Sundays.)
  44. Learning how to forage and find edible plants helped many families fill their dinner plates. Things like nuts and wild asparagus were treats and often entire families would grab a pile of gunny sacks and head to the good foraging areas for the day.
  45. Housewives were judged by how many jars she had “put up” during harvest season. Women would show off their full pantries with pride.
  46. To add different types of food to their meals, families swapped produce with each other.
  47. The seasons determined what you ate.
  48. For many, there was no electricity or a refrigerator, so you just cooked only what could be eaten at that one meal.
  49. In some communities, there were group gardens on empty lots. Everyone had their own small plot and could grow whatever they wanted.
  50. Many worked multiple part-time jobs, waking up before dawn and falling asleep long after dark.
  51. Those with just a little bit more than others found odd jobs around their homes or property to provide employment to others.
  52. “Depression Soup” was a real thing! It contained anything and everything you might have in the kitchen or was donated by others. To this day, some say it was the best soup they ever tasted.
  53. Some enterprising women would wake in the early morning hours and prepare dozens of meals to sell to workers from their vehicles.
  54. Fabric feed sacks were recycled and became “feed sack dresses.” For some, it was an embarrassment, an obvious sign of poverty, but others wore them with pride. A family with many chickens, and therefore plenty of feed sacks, might be the best dressed in the neighborhood!
  55. Hanging wet sheets over doorways was a way to cool down a room or house during the summer. Hot air was slightly cooled as it passed through the wet fabric.
  56. Walls were covered with everything from mud/clay, scrap pieces of wallpaper, newspapers, and tar paper.
  57. Homemakers still took pride in their homes, keeping them as clean as possible, even those who lived in areas affected by the Dust Bowl. One mom made a couch from old bedsprings and stuffed homemade cushions with unginned cotton.
  58. Many spent their days walking the streets looking for work, anything at all that could bring in a few dollars or cents for their families. Often a “job” was just an individual task, payment was made when the task was completed, and the worker went on to look for the next job.
  59. Some communities organized “surprise parties”, in which everyone would pull together a large amount of food and other necessities, including cash. One by one, each family was selected to be the recipient of the surprise party.
  60. People were grateful. Grateful for any kindness, any blessing. That attitude carried many of them through the Great Depression years and they now look back on them with fondness.
  61. A jack-of-all-trades could often find work when others couldn’t. It paid to know a bit about plumbing, carpentry, painting, and home repairs.
  62. The hardened end of a slab of bacon was sold for almost nothing and could be used to season just about everything in the kitchen!
  63. There actually were government inspectors of different types during the Great Depression years. They had the authority to shut down many different types of home businesses. Some did, some didn’t.
  64. The Sears Roebuck catalog was truly the book of dreams for many people — not just kids!
  65. Stories from the Great Depression years are filled with incidents that illustrate one act of kindness after another. In spite of incredible hardships, people could still find ways to encourage others with words of blessing or unexpected help.

More wisdom and advice from the Great Depression years

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25 Ways People Earned Money During the Great Depression

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great depression earn moneyIn a previous career, I was a history teacher, and I’ve always loved learning about the past and gleaning whatever wisdom I can from the words and actions of others.

A couple of years ago I found an excellent book with dozens of first-person accounts from the Great Depression, We Had Everything But MoneyI’ve spent hours reading through anecdotes, touching, humorous, and poignant, and one thing that struck me was the ingenuity of the Americans who lived through those tough times. Many continued to find ways to earn money, even when their own circumstances were dire.

I put together this list. Feel free to add any others that you know of.

To earn money, people:

1. Caught and sold fish, clams, and crabs

2. Made homemade fudge and sold it

3. Sold newspapers on the corner. Kids earned a little extra if they were promoted to “Corner Captain”, a sort of Great Depression multi-level marketing program where a kid brought in other kids to sell papers and earned a bit extra himself.

4. Started a lunch truck/wagon

5. Grew, picked, and sold berries

6. Road work

7. Shoveled snow on roads

8. Multiple part-time jobs, including housecleaning

9. Chopped wood or harvested driftwood

10. Made and sold handwoven baskets

11. Mowed lawns and other kinds of yard work

12. Door to door sales of things like shoes or sewing notions

13. Made deliveries for stores

14. Made and sold quilts

15. Sold homemade baked goods, like bread or pies

16. Sold eggs for 25 cents a dozen

17. Childcare

18. Rented out rooms

19. Mended or altered clothes

20. Washed windows

21. Would purchase produce and re-sell door-to-door

22. Sold apples

23. Loaded coal

24. Piecework sewing

25. Sold homegrown produce

In every case it was a simple matter of looking around to see what people needed, what they wanted, what made them feel good about themselves and about life. Years ago a hairdresser friend of mine said, “Lisa, even if the economy collapsed tomorrow, women still want to look pretty. I would do business out of my home and probably continue to earn pretty good money.”

This is why some people who have lived through economic collapses say that beauty products, such as lipstick, eye shadow, and lotions, are good items for barter.

In addition to these creative entrepreneurial efforts, don’t forget that many people found work in the various Depression-era works programs as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, and keep in mind that these people had practical skills that folks today just don’t have. Perhaps some of these might be good additions to your own skillbank:

  • Rendering lard
  • Caring for livestock of all kinds
  • Smoking meat, poultry, and fish
  • Butchering all types of animals from squirrels to hogs, cattle, and other “varmints”
  • Foraging
  • Sewing by hand or with a non-electric sewing machine
  • Raising flourishing gardens
  • Preserving food by canning
  • Tinkering — Knowing how to fix all kinds of things.

As you can see, many of these skills go hand in hand with the money-making ventures of our Great Depression-era grandparents and great-grandparents. Today, so few of us have any of these skills. We are generations removed from farm life and homesteading.

How will YOU earn money in the next Great Depression?

One of the main reasons for studying how people survive, whether economically or physically, is to find lessons we can apply to our own lives and circumstances. For many years, some economists have been predicting an economic collapse here in America. If you are one of the 93+ million of Americans who are out of work, your own personal economy has already collapsed.

Now it’s time to consider how you will earn money, whether or not you are currently out of work. In the days of the Great Depression, it was common for grocers and landlords to provide credit to their customers. Today? That would be a rare occurrence.

From the Depression days there is an abundance of stories of neighbors and church families showing up at the door, laden with bags and boxes of food for a needy family. When one desperate mom was asked by her daughter, “Mama, what’s for dinner tonight?”, the response was, “Whatever the neighbors decide to bring us!”  I wish I could imagine that happening today, but our communities and families have become so fractured over the past few decades that it would be a rare event.

So, what skills do you have that might offer a service during a severe economic downturn? What knowledge do you have that would be helpful, even vital, to others? What products can you produce? What skills can you teach?

Ingenuity is something that can never be stolen by thieves, confiscated by a government, or lost to flood or fire. It is possible to survive during a Great Depression and there is plenty to learn from those who lived through the last one.

Want to learn more about Great Depression survival?

great depression earn money


Are your kids equipped to handle these 7 scary scenarios?

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scary scenariosIn Episode  8 of my show, “The Survival Mom Radio Hour“, I ask the question, “Do your kids know what to do in a scary, violent scenario?” Be sure to listen to the show for more tips as well as an interview with Carnell Dixon of Survival Plants Memory Course.

Our kids are already aware of many of the scary things that happen in the world around them. They hear about them from kids at school, on the evening news, and in conversations they overhear, so it’s not a matter of scaring them but equipping them.

Here are 7 scenarios that kids of all ages should be aware of and should know how to respond:

1. A loud, sudden pounding on the door, especially at night. This would scare the heck out an adult, so you can be sure it would terrify a child. Your children should know to never answer the door in this type of scenario but to either stay in their room or go to a safe room/area.

2. The sound of a breaking window. This could indicate someone trying to break in the house or simple vandalism. Either way, it’s scary.

3. A smoke or carbon monoxide alarm sounding. This article says that very often children sleep through a smoke alarm! Perhaps very  young children should sleep in an area closer to their parent’s bedroom rather than on another floor or separate area of the house, making it easier for a parent to wake them and get them to safety. For sure, kids should know what these alarms sound like and what they should immediately do when the alarm goes off.

4. A sudden scream from someone in the household. This could be due to a serious injury or someone having a heart attack. From my first book: “Here is an example of a routine based on a crisis in which children must handle a medical emergency on their own, without any adults present.

  1. Decide if a medical emergency requires a 911 call. If you answer yes to any of these, make that call!
    a. Is the person unable to get up or move?
    b. Are you not able to wake the person up?
    c. Is the person bleeding rapidly?
  2. Kid #1 calls 911 on a home phone.
  3. Kid #2 follows any instructions given by the 911 operator and calls Mom, Dad, or another adult family member.
  4. Get the house ready for the first responders. Even young children can help with these important steps:
    a. Secure all pets in a bedroom.
    b. Unlock the front door, so emergency responders can enter the house quickly.
    c. Make sure all lights are on in the house.
    d. The oldest child goes outside to signal emergency vehicles.
  5. Remain calm.

5. The driver of a car is suddenly unable to function. Does your child know how to steer a car? Does he or she know the brake pedal from the gas pedal?

6. Loud, incessant barking from family or neighborhood watchdogs, especially at night. This alone can be scary and kids should know what to do. After all, the purpose of having a watchdog is that the dog will watch out for intruders! Sudden, loud barking might very well indicate that an unwelcome person is on the property.

7. Sirens in the neighborhood. Whether it’s a police siren, ambulance, or a fire truck, sirens at a nearby house can be scary for kids. They should know to stay indoors and let a parent or other adult find out what’s going on.

What other scary scenarios should kids know how to handle?

Originally published May 29, 2013.

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