How to Make Your Own Soap – Soapmaking Part 1

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Soap….it’s one of those things that is easily taken for granted in western culture…but what would you use to clean yourself if you didn’t have soap?  I decided to do a little research into the history of soap and here’s what I found:

Before the Ivory Bar

The earliest evidences of what we know as soap were found in an excavation in Iraq (ancient Babylon), lending evidence to the production of soap-like substances almost 6000 years ago.  Many ancient cultures used various formats of mixing oils, fats, ashes, salts and water to make soaps.  Supposedly Romans used urine….ew…..But these concoctions weren’t used on the body, but only for cleaning textiles, tools and utensils, etc.  There is evidence, however,  that by 1550 BC in Egypt, oils and alkaline salts were made into a soap that was used on the skin to heal sores and diseases. The reality is that people were pretty funky until the relationship between being clean and health was established, it seems.  Commercial soap as we know it didn’t come into production until after World War I.

The soapwort plant was also a source for cleaning as it was mixed with water and the saponins of the plant worked to make a lather for cleansing.


Soapwort: Saponaria officinalis

Romans and Greeks were known to clean themselves by using water and ashes, sand or pumice and then anointing themselves with oil.  The ruins of Pompeii (destroyed in 79AD) reveal an entire soap factory!  So, somewhere along the line, people started using soap for personal hygiene and as a preventative for disease.  There are records that in the 2nd century AD, a Greek physician, Galen, recommended washing with soap for this reason.

By the 8th century, soap was being made in Italy and Spain from goat tallow and beech tree ashes.  By the 13th century, Italy and France were centers of soap-making, bringing soap into the forefront for use in bathing, laundry, shaving and shampooing. Of course, the Castille area in Spain is famous for making the first hard, white bars of olive oil soap – still made today as castile soap.  I will be sharing a recipe that is my favorite.

Out of Ashes….Lye!

So I have not done it yet, but I plan to try to make a soap mixture of some sort using ashes from our woodstove this winter, lard that I rendered last winter and water – and see what happens.  I will definitely do a post when I do that.  What I love about that idea is that it is simple and made with ingredients that I won’t have to purchase.  I have movie-images of people outside stirring big bubbling kettles of soap for hours and I wonder if that is accurate.  I intend to find out….

Photo courtesy of NY public library

But for now, I want to share with you my experience in making some simple homemade soaps.  My mission is to make the most luxuriant lathering and moisturizing soap that I can possibly make, while keeping the bar hard and long-lasting.  (This is a challenge, so I’ve been told because the more luxuriant bars tend to dissipate more quickly.)  I needed to start at square one, being a complete novice at soap-making.  So my husband bought me a book for Christmas, called Milk Soapmaking by Anne L. Watson and I began to assemble the tools I would need to successfully make soap.

Materials Needed

It was a bit overwhelming for our extremely tight budget, but I finally managed to acquire some lye (I just purchased Roebic drain cleaner at Lowe’s – you have to get 100% sodium hydroxide and this is a bead form of lye which is what you need to use for milk soaps), various oils and fats, an instant-read digital thermometer, a digital scale that tares, an immersion stick blender, goggles, rubber gloves, various stainless steel pots (no aluminum!), a glass pitcher with a spout, containers for measuring ingredients, and then pans for pouring the soap into to set and parchment paper to line those pans so you can get the soap back out! (My first mistake) You also want to make sure any spoons you use are stainless steel or plastic.  She also recommends getting pH strips to test the alkalinity of your soap.  I got some but haven’t used them yet.  You need ones that measure the range of 7 (neutral)-11(too alkaline to use).  I’ve been letting my bars sit for 3 months before using them.

Let me preface my experience by saying that I was attempting to make soap with certain qualities and appearance of the soap meant nothing to me.  I totally did not care to fuss with making my soap beautiful.  Functional and effective was what I was after.  So you wouldn’t look at my soaps and salivate.

Cold-Process Milk Soap


I started out with a basic, cold-process milk soap.  I had some raw milk go sour and so  I decided this was a perfect use for it.  The lye kills everything, so it totally doesn’t matter that it was soured.  I poured the soured milk into 9 ounce portions in ziploc bags and layed them flat in the freezer.  You need the milk to be frozen when you use it for your soap to manage the temperature of the lye mixture.  Using it frozen is a great boon to getting your mixture to the temperature needed to add the fats more quickly.

Here’s the recipe I used:

9 ounces (255g) coconut oil
21 ounces (595g) olive oil
9 ounces (255g) fluid milk (frozen)
4.1 ounces (116g) lye

*Remember, this is a cool technique soap. (Differs from the warm technique in the form of milk used and the making of the lye solution.)

Ready, Set, Soap!

Get all your materials ready and dress to prepare for splashes. (long sleeves, gloves, etc.) Keep the kids occupied.  Seriously – if your children are undisciplined, do NOT make soap around them.  You cannot be interrupted and they must not be permitted to be anywhere near the lye.  Wear your goggles!  I have proven their effectiveness after only 3 batches of soap!  Also…lye fumes are toxic.  Decide where you will mix your lye solution.  If you can mix your lye solution outside, do it.  Some folks do it on the stove with the exhaust fan on, or go near an open window.  Do NOT breathe in these fumes! (They are much worse with a warm technique soap.)

Step 1: Turn on your scale. Put your pot on the scale and push the tare button.  Measure the coconut oil into the pot.  Tare again.  Add the olive oil. Gently heat until coconut oil melts.  OR melt premeasured coconut oil in the microwave and then add it melted to the pot. Set aside the fats.


Step 2: Put a dry measuring cup on the scale for measuring lye.  This should be a cup you will use exclusively for lye.  Measure lye into the cup very slowly so as to not overshoot and have to pour any back.  The beaded lye likes to travel about.


Step 3: Put the frozen milk into your pot or glass pitcher.


Step 4: Gently pour the lye on top of the milk, stirring carefully with your long-handled slotted spoon.  Avoid splashes!  (*Note: Never, never, never pour lye in first and add liquid on top of it!! Imagine a volcano….) Don’t worry about any changes of color or if it gets grainy(happens with lowfat milk, but why would you use lowfat milk when high fat makes such a nicer soap?) or thickens- it’s all fine.


Step 5: Determine when your lye is dissolved.  Take the temperature at the start and keep a watch on it as you stir.  When it begins to definitely fall, your lye is dissolved. UNLESS you’re making a really high-fat soap, (which this recipe is not) where the fats cause the temps to keep rising – in this case, you’d just stir for a good 5 minutes to be sure it is dissolved. How to tell if you have enough fat to expect the temps to rise or fall? If the mixture is thickening as you stir, expect it to keep rising.  If it stays thin, the temps should drop.


Step 6: Time to combine!  Add your lye mixture to the melted fats in the pot by pouring it through a sieve.  Again, this sieve should be exclusively for soapmaking. If you used high-fat milk, it might be too thick to pour. That’s okay – just spoon it in. Stir with the long-handled spoon until mixed.


Step 7: Add any fragrances (essential oils are best.  I learned that orange oil doesn’t last at all.) or colorants (I wasn’t bothered.).


Step 8: Check your temperature and note it.

Step 9: The tricky part.  Immerse your stick blender into the mixture and blend. (Make sure you keep it submerged or you’ll have a big mess to clean up!)


Watch the mixture change forms until it becomes thick and creamy. When your blender sounds like it’s working harder, turn it off and stir your soap with a spoon for about half a minute.  If it thins again (false trace) use the blender some more. What you’re going for here is what soapmakers call ”trace.”  It’s where you see a trace of the movement of the blender through the mixture as it’s thickening up. The temperature will also go up a couple degrees from the heat generated by saponification. If this happens, you want to be done and pour your soap into the mold.  Do not let it go any higher than 5 degrees from the starting temp.


First batch, first mistake – I forgot to line the pan with parchment paper. Digging the soap out of there didn’t make for pretty bars!


Step10: Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or you can freeze for 1 hour and then move to the ‘frig to get it as pale as possible.  Then move it to your countertop or some other room temperature place to cure.


Step 11:  After 12-24 hours pull the soap out of the mold.

Step 12: Test your soap. Put on your rubber gloves. Drop a bit of distilled water onto the setting soap and work it in a bit.  Press in a ph strip.  If the reading is high (11-12), wait until it reads around 7-10.

Step 13: Cut into bars and let cure. Use a cheese wire, a knife, a pizza wheel, whatever works for the mold you chose.  If it seems to want to chip, maybe wait another day to cut the bars.  Be on the alert for any lye granules as you cut.  If you see any, test with a pH strip and if it’s lye, you’ll have to ditch the batch.  The soap should be uniform and creamy.  Let the bars cure where they can get good air circulation.  I just put mine on a lined old cookie sheet and turned them over every day.

The soap in the middle of the basket is the soap from this recipe.

The soap in the middle of the basket is the soap from this recipe.

In a few months – enjoy! You can probably use your soap sooner than this, but it will just dissolve so much more slowly if you are patient and let it really dry out. Minimum wait is really a month.

Next time I’ll walk you through the warm technique soap I made and then my favorite – olive oil castile.

Aren’t you glad we don’t have to use sand and ashes?


Thrift Tips for Stretching a Buck in a Tough Economy

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How to Survive a Layoff

Don’t panic. With a little “belt tightening” and a realistic plan, you will make it through this…

Being laid off, under employed or just watching your paycheck buy less and less at the store has become a reality in most homes. As businesses are downsizing, more and more work gets sent overseas and energy prices continue to sore, what can you do when you realize your income is not able to comfortably sustain your family?

Here are several practical tips…

Don’t Panic
First, in any survival situation, and trust me, being laid, under employed or broke half way through the month off can be a very real survival situation… Rule #1 is “Don’t panic.” So: step back, take a breath, sleep on it, pray and trust that you are going to make it through this.Store Up Some Food

Plan Ahead and Network
This is where having gone to the ant and observed their lifestyle comes in handy (Proverbs 30:25 & 6:6 – The Good Book).  It is a really wise rule of thumb to be prepared for what you think may never happen.

In our home, we have a decent stock of food that we lay by for the possibility of joblessness – which we actually have lived through multiple times.

Little Blessings From Others…
One winter, at the beginning of our years of wedded bliss, before we had  chance to think through anything wise, we wound up jobless with two little ‘uns.  That winter stands out in my mind as precious because we were fed almost entirely by a friend who was a delivery person for a food supply company…

People would reject a bag of flour that had a tear in it or cans that were dented.  He had a ministry of feeding many needy people like us with surprise deliveries of this food which would otherwise have been thrown away.

So, in our need, God supplied. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of networking and bartering.  Someone else might raise what you need and perhaps you have a skill you can trade for something. Or vice-versa.  Bartering is a great American tradition and it knits people together in a way passively forking over greenbacks can not.

Seek Out Local Resources and Encouragement
We have a wonderful Mennonite community and country store near us through whom we can order bulk foods.  They never look to profit on this, only to serve and it has been such a huge blessing in being able to order large quantities of food to stretch our budget and lay things aside at the same time.  Another place we are extremely fond of is a local surplus food store.

Bulk food is still affordable when you have a good source...

Bulk food is still affordable when you have a good source…

They resell those dented cans and just-expired foods at amazing prices so that we come home with a lot of food for not much output.  I’ve been to a store like ours in another locale and it was a rip-off.  So make sure you’re actually getting a deal.

Roadside Stands Can Be a Fun Surprise

Roadside stands are a great value

Roadside stands are fun and are often a great way to stretch a buck…

Folks who run roadside stand often go to produce markets and then bring their haul to reasonably resell. Roadside stands usually offer a great value when compared to grocery stores…

But better yet, find the wholesale produce market!  But be ready to process all the food you’ll buy there!  It’s an auction-like atmosphere, a lot of fun and a way to get semi-locally grown produce in bulk quantities.  Make sure you have your stamina that day because you may have to wait until the end for what you really want to get.

So search your area for resources like these.  Ask around…people who are thrifty are everywhere, you just have to find them!

I learned about the produce market from one of these folks!

Find Encouraging People in Tough Times
Look around  for people to whom the almighty dollar is in its proper place – at the bottom of their priorities.  These are the people who will keep your spirits from plummeting during hard times because they understand what is really important (people) and will reach out to help others.  This is where churches are supposed to shine, but unfortunately, impersonal, demeaning, mismanaged government programs have  usurped this privilege… and honestly, at times the church has fallen short, some being more occupied with things like “building programs” than building people.

But there are still some great, others-minded churches out there, and some wonderful loving folks who go to them. If you need help, seek them out.

Do It Yourself – Canning, Dehydrating & Freezing
Having a garden and canning, dehydrating and freezing what you grow is also an invaluable way to stretch a food budget.  It also allows you to have things laid up for that rainy day or week or month or year.

Our traditional way of “putting up” food for the future is a laborious but rewarding venture. However, as I learn more about nutrition (other posts to come), I am realizing that canning will give me food on my shelves, but its nutritional content is minimal, having been processed with heat for long periods.

Canning is a great way to preserve food

Canning is the traditional way to preserve food… but dehydrating is easier.

Dehydrated foods keep indefinitely if dried properly.  Dehydration uses a very low heat and air circulation to lock in nutrients and enable you to have what is called, “living foods” kept on your shelf.

So dehydrating is MUCH better than canning from a nutritional perspective.

Because you’re not dependent on electricity to preserve your “goodies” after they’re dehydrated, it is better than freezing.

  • Get my article on dehydrating – Coming SOON!
  • Here’s the food dehydrator that I use – Click Here

Freezing is also a better way than canning to preserve nutrients, but with freezing, you have a dependency on electric – which can go bye-bye at any time.

Make Your Own Laundry Soap!!!
Did you know that with a few basic very inexpensive ingredients you can make your own laundry soap?  I’ve been making my own for a few years now and it works great!

The Clothing Budget – What?
Well, we’ve been married about a quarter century and we’ve never had the prescribed clothing budget that you see in all the ‘how-to-make-a-budget’ books.  In fact, we’ve never had most of their categories!

Save money on cloths - go to a thrist shop

Going to Thrift Shops can eliminate the need for a clothing budget…

I can count on one hand the times I’ve purchased new clothing (excepting underwear, of course!).

I simply cannot bring myself to drop the amount of hard-earned money called for to buy things new.  Seems like bad stewardship to me for the purpose of vanity.

So, yeah – we shop at the exclusive places like Goodwill and Salvation Army.  I actually find it fun!  You can often find something that appeals to your fancy in a way you’d never imagined and it’s like a scavenger hunt/ surprise party every time you go!

Remember: Always try things on – even at a thrift shop, why waste money on things that don’t fit right?

Sometimes I look longingly at people who have wonderful store-bought clothes in just the right style I wish I could wear, but I really do pretty good at the thrift shops.  And if you’re clever with a needle, you can jazz up a simple second-hand tee shirt quite amazingly!

“My Secret” Resource For Everything!
I cannot write an article such as this without celebrating the age-old yard sale!

My “secret” resource for almost everything…

Oh my, if you look through my house, almost everything in it has come from a yard sale or was a gift.

You simply cannot tell that we have only two pieces of store-bought furniture. I have had many compliments on our eclectic décor and we have never been without what we need- in large part, due to yard sales.

Homeschool your children?  Yard sales offered us a plethora of low cost resources and teaching aids.

We always had a craft table full of fun things to make and do – compliments of other people cleaning out their craft supplies.

I still rely on my $50 23-cubic-foot Montgomery Ward deep freeze I got years and year ago when it was already old.

Outfits can be put together for a couple dollars. And one year I got a whole new wardrobe of brand new shoes that some lady who had a shoe fetish was getting rid of!

All of my canning supplies – yard sales.  Yard tools – yard sales.

Christmas, birthday, baby and bridal shower gifts – yard sales (think ahead!). I’m pretty sure people looked forward to seeing what would be in my shower bags because I always found such unique and wonderful things!

You don’t have to be a skinflint and can, in fact, be very generous, when you learn the art of yard saling.

One Last Tip – Take 21 Days…
Every time you go to spend any amount of money, no matter how small, ask yourself: “Do I really need this?”  If it is a need, ask: “Is there any other way I can meet this need without spending money?”

Resist impulse buys - wait 21 days

Resist impulse buys – wait 21 days

If it is a large purchase – a great rule of thumb is to wait 21 days to a month.  Sit on it.  Train yourself against impulse buying this way.

At the end of the time period, you will likely have moved on and your marriage may even benefit from this frugal, selfless practice!

Okay… Just One More tip: Leverage the Internet for Bargains…

And NEVER, EVER… purchase anything on the Internet without first doing a Google search for the name of the company you are going to buy from, followed by the words, “coupon code.” You’ll be amazed at how much you can save scrounging for a few minutes trying coupon codes.

Oh, and check Amazon before you buy online. We purchase most of our non-food necessities through Amazon because we get free shipping and find that we usually save 10% or more verse other online shops or local retail stores and we save gas and time shopping. Plus our credit card info is in one place and not spread about.

The internet is loaded with resources on how to do all sorts of things like make your own electricity,  find ways to fuel your car cheaper, heat your home for less, decorate on a budget, use simple ingredients like a gourmet, etc.,etc.  (I think my husband has some links to this kind of stuff around this site, too.)  And these are just a few of a plethora of ways to stretch what you have.

Just make sure you get all your info together in hard copies because well, who knows how long the internet will last?

Until next time…

~ Carin

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.

Survival Thriftiness Part 1 Episode 107

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Survival Thriftiness

Survival Thriftiness


Survival Thriftiness

This week Mike and I discuss Survival Thriftiness. This is the first part in a two part series. In today’s podcast we talk about how to save money in the following categories. Reducing Bills, Food and Household goods.  As usual we got long winded and ran long.

A good method that we both have used is to call a service provider and haggle with them to lower your bill. If they can’t lower it you can often get incentives to stay. If they still can’t do anything for you many of their competitors will offer you a lower bill to switch. Loyalty is only good in friends and family.

We talk about buying food only when it is marked down. Making often expensive meats very affordable. I have found that local stores tend to have the best mark downs. The large box stores have pitiful price reductions. The same goes for produce. One local store often has expensive salad mixes marked down below a dollar.

When it comes to household cleaners making your own can save you a ton.

We talk about all that and much more.



Making your own Laundry Detergent

Coupon Mom


  • Reducing Bills
  • Food
  • House


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14 Ways to Find the BEST Gear and Save Money

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We’ve all done it… bought crappy gear because it was cheap, marketed well, or we got emotional and made an impulse buy due to fear. To help out, here are 14 ways get the perfect gear, every time.

victorinox-swiss-card-lite-2Start Small – Getting started in emergency preparedness and survival stuff can be overwhelming and can leave you stone cold broke. So start small.  A great survival book or two, a knife, and a well thought out general survival and first aid kit are all good first steps. And writing out a simple survival plan will cost you nothing… except a bit of time.

10024811Focus – Focus on the most likely situation you may face. For instance: Most of us should prepare for a power outage, vehicle break down, or loss of income. Survival provisions can help you get through lean personal financial times.

35317211Learn to Improvise Developing the skills to turn something of no value (or that is designed for a different purpose) into something of value – especially in a survival situation – is a vital skill. [Creek Stewart’s New Book “SURVIVAL HACKS” is a good place to start].

yard-saleLearn to Bargain Hunt Surplus food stores, Second-hand shops, Yard sales, Ebay, Craig’s list. This is always, a time vs. money trade. It will take some time to find a deal, but you might save some big money.

SOL-survival-kit-2Versatility – Can each item be used for multiple tasks? Or is its primary task vital enough to justify it’s singular purpose? A quality poncho is a good example, since I can be used for a shelter, rain gear, ground tarp, water collector and a host of other uses. Killing two, three, or four “birds” with one stone will save weight, money, and increase your survivability.

IMG_0640Necessity / Priority – Ask yourself, “Does this item help satisfy a key priority of survival?” Meaning: is it really necessary? Or is it a luxury or optional item? Build your survival stash focusing on the disciplined acquisition of essential items first.

waitResist Impulse Buys –  It’s hard, but try to limit impulse buys. Here’s a simple tip… Give yourself 10 days before you make a big purchase. It’s also not a bad idea to talk over significant purchases with your spouse, parent or significant “other” to make the best decision, foster peace, and keep everyone on the same page.

19138328Durability – Ask, “Will this item last long and survive rough use?” As for me, I’ve learned my lessons. I’ll almost always pay more for proven reliability, quality and relevant craftsmanship that results in a better product… especially when I’m investing in key items such as a knife, water filter, or rucksack.

19825760Cost / Affordability – Cost is VITAL but is relative to every person and their budget. Weigh all factors against cost to make the best decision for you. Honestly, sometimes I just have to slow down and save my pennies to get the piece of gear I really need.

39175000Weight – Weight is important for anything you have to carry or transport. Not AS important if you don’t plan to mobilize. But keeping weight down gives you options and more versatility in the event that you do need to be mobile or carry stuff on your back.

Mini-CookStove2-520-girlVolume / Size – Volume can be as important as weight if you have to hit the road. We each only have so much room in a backpack, vehicle or home.

Cover SHot copyReviews / Recommendations – Select tried and true gear with good reviews and helpful user comments. The more reviews the better. Talk to people you trust and ask what they recommend. This reduces overall risk and the potential of you wasting your money.

85641102INVEST the Best Gear You Can Afford – In my perspective, good gear is an investment NOT an expense. Plus it may have the added value of being an essential barter item in tough times.

We all have a choice to make, purchase great gear and have it last for a long time… or cut corners and purchase cheaper stuff and risk having it break, fail or wear out when it’s needed most.

39059816Get Trained – In our way too busy lives, it seems like we are all looking for short cuts. And gear can be a short cut that’s gives a false sense of security, especially when it’s purchased devoid of knowledge, training and skill. 

Since knowledge weights nothing (to carry) costs a minimal amount to acquire (in dollars and time), and never wears out or breaks, I recommend that EVERYONE invest in a quality, yearly training that interests you.

For instance wife, she loves wild plants, and how to use them medicinally. So we invest in books, online and “live” training for her. Last year she also attended our Ultimate Survival Tips – LEVEL 1 Training to gain basic survival skills.

There are many basic survival, tactical, preparedness, books, and course available. Find one that suits your interests, needs, budget.

I you would like a comprehensive, condensed training in a wide diversity wilderness and urban survival skills, our Ultimate Survival Challenge – LEVEL 1 is the only affordable, family-friendly training in the USA that covers everything from primitive and urban survival skills to basic navigation, first aid, personal hand-to-hand self defense and a ton more – all in a condensed, 3-day format.

I HATED Survival Wire Saws — Until NOW! Wire Saw HACK 101

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editScreen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.01.24 PMI HATED survival wire saws until I discovered this simple “hack” that transforms this impertinent piece of twisted wire into a rather useful bow saw.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had much success using a survival wire saw the traditional way… by pulling it back and forth with my hands to cut a branch or tree.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and…..yeah.

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It has always seemed inefficient to me.  And, in a survival situation, you need to be efficient and conserve as many calories as you can.

So, not long ago I was giving my wire saw one last chance….and came up with a simple way to easily turn it into a bow saw that cuts like a BOSS!

For this hack you only need TWO things:

A quality wire saw like this one from Best Glide…

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.01.49 PM…and, a tree branch!

Your tree branch will need to be a few inches longer than your wire saw with Ys on both sides… and smaller in diameter than your wire saw O-rings.

It will also be helpful if your tree branch is curved a bit… AND is able to be bent slightly without breaking.

If you have a utility or survival knife on you, go ahead and trim up your branch… if not, that’s fine.

Now slide one O-ring over the fat end of the branch until it rests against the base of the bottom Y.

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Now, carefully bend the branch while you hook the remaining O-ring to the Y on the other side.

Your wire saw should now have a good deal of tension. If not, you may want to start over.

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There you have it!  A super simple way to transform your survival wire saw into an energy, finger – and potentially, life – saving bow saw.

Find Survival Wire Saws Here: