Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shopping trip

This afternoon we went shopping for food and such.  Did you know that a family of four can get almost $700 a month in food stamps?  We don't have food stamps.  We actually pay for our own food.  A family with young kids also receives WIC food items which are valued at over $100 a month. 

I was thinking just how much food could be bought for $700 or $800.  I feed a family of 3 or 4 or 5 or however many people show up at mealtimes for much, much less that what the government will give.  I  spend about $300 a month for food but I am buying for the present and also the future. 

For example, today I bought several different varieties of pasta totaling 15 pounds.  I also bought 15 cans of spaghetti sauce.  The pasta cost .85 a pound and the sauce was .78 per 26 ounce can.     For under $25 I bought somewhere between 15 and 30 meals.  If I figure 25 meals that's a dollar a meal.  Not a dollar per person but a dollar per meal!  Now you may say that that's not enough food for a meal and you are right.  Remember, I have a garden and the fruits or vegetables served for the meal came from the yard.  I usually make a loaf of bread.  That costs about .15 - .25 depending on what I put into it.  Then there's milk if I don't make a fruit drink.  That's .75 per quart.  So a full dinner for somewhere between three and 5 people costs TWO DOLLARS. 

Breakfast this morning was eggs from our chickens, nectarine/plum/orange juice, and raisin bread (homemade of course).  I went all out on the bread and put cinnamon sugar into the batter.  Breakfast cost twenty five cents this morning.  I fed five people this morning but it wouldn't have mattered how many we served.  I don't always get away so cheap at breakfast.  The kids do like eating cereal.  I buy sugar junky cereal because they like it.  I buy the stuff in bulk.  It costs about .12 per ounce.  I let them have two ounces.  With their milk a cereal breakfast will cost about a dollar.  Even if I make pancakes or waffles or something, breakfast doesn't usually cost more than a dollar.  The most expensive breakfast?  ONE DOLLAR.

What about lunch?  Today our friend treated us to a pizza.  We also snacked on the free stuff at Costco.  Otherwise lunch isn't a big deal.  It's either left overs from the night before or a sandwich of some sort.  With tuna shrinking to a five ounce can it's hard to get three sandwiches out of it.  But we still do.  Sixty cents for the tuna.  Bread is about 10 cents since it's home made. Milk, another quarter.  Depending on how many people are eating.  TWO DOLLARS. 

Now you may say what about meat?  You are right.  We do eat meat.  I just don't spend a lot.  When I was growing up we'd each get our own steak each night.  If I did that now we'd spend between ten and twenty dollars a day just for meat.  No, not us.  We have friends that hunt.  We fish.  At the most we spend about a dollar or two for meat.  TWO DOLLARS.

I've just explained how we spend between five and seven dollars a day for food.  That's around $200 a month to eat well.  I'm feeding at least four people each day and I spend around $300 a month.  The other hundred is being used to increase my food storage.  If I was getting food stamps and WIC I'd have an extra $500 a month!!!!!  I'd be putting lots of food away for a rainy day. 

Do people who receive food stamps eat this way?  Of course not!  They can buy all sorts of things.  Soda, candy, potato chips, steak each night.  I know because some of our neighbors eat this way.  They also throw away a lot of wasted food.  They waste because they didn't have to pay for their food so they don't associate having to work hard for it. 

This column today isn't to put down folks on food stamps.  Not at all.  I'd like you to try to rethink your eating habits.  Try to get back to the basics of eating.  Each dinner should have either rice or beans or pasta.  Take a piece of meat the size of your fist and make it feed your entire family.  Pretend it is 50 or 75 years ago.  Would the food you just bought be something that was eaten daily?  Was it even invented back then?  I know that we have fruit and vegetables grown here at home.  Spend a dollar or two per day on fresh fruits and vegetables.  I don't mean the two dollar a pound stuff.  I mean the fifty cent a pound.  Buy a pound of carrots, a pound of cabbage, a pound of bananas, and an apple or two.  That's two dollars.

See if you can eat for THREE DOLLARS per person per day.  You should be able to eat like kings!  The rest of the money you get on your food stamps should be able to be put into food storage. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The great thing about living in California is the variety of fruit trees that can be grown.  I read on one website that said not to expect to ever eat more than 500 calories per day from your garden.  I suppose this is correct if all you are eating is vegetables.  On the other hand, fruit packs a punch (in more ways than one).  Fortunately those in my household can eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and it doesn't cause diarrhea. 
In the morning I make a fruit shake.  I can use an orange or two, a couple of peaches, plums, some grapes, or whatever the mood suits me.   Mix it in the blender add a little ice and voila, a great shake that I didn't have to spend any money on.  (It's better than jamba juice because the fruit came from the yard) 
Each year for arbor day and each year for my birthday I plant trees.  I have a good variety growing but expect to plant more varieties as the years go by.  One of my favorite books is the Sunset Western Garden Book.  I just skim through those pages and pick fruit trees and plants.  Many of the types of fruit I'd never seen of until I grew them myself!   Even if you don't have a big yard, you can grow semi-drawf or drawf fruit trees.  Most fruit growers grow on semi-drawf or drawf root stocks.  Right now we have about 60 fruit trees.  If each tree gave us 100 pieces of fruit (and believe me, most years we get much more than that), and each fruit was 100 calories, we'd get 10,000 calories per tree.  Doing a bit of easy math and you can see that my fruit trees would provide over 1500 calories of food per day every day of the year.  You can easily put over 100 trees on an acre.  In fact, if you were a fruit farmer you would more than likely plant over 200 trees per acre.  Check out this website for some good basic information.
I can some of my fruit, I freeze some of my fruit, and I dry a lot of my fruit.  The kids love fruit roll-ups.  This is a really lousy food that you buy at the store.  It costs about a dollar for 1/2 a piece of fruit, some corn syrup, and artificial color and flavor.  I make my own.  Cook the fruit a bit to soften.  Mash up  the fruit, either using a blender, a grinder, or a pestle.  You can sweeten it with sugar or honey.  Spoon the fruit on plastic wrap.  Stick it in the dehydrator, oven at the lowest setting with the door open, or in the sun (covered with an old sheet or screen to let the heat get to it but not the bugs).  It's easy and so much better than the store junk.  Of course, the kids will miss the pretty colors from the artificial coloring.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Non-Hybrid Seeds Blatant Advertisement for a Contest!

Tonight's post is about gardening, or garden seeds in particular.   If I mention and write something about it I may win their contest and be given 37 varieties of non-hybrid seeds valued at $54.99.  The price is a good price if I were to go to the store and buy each of these varieties at somewhere like Home Depot.  On the other hand, I buy a lot of my seeds from the dollar stores at 10-20 packages for a dollar.  (Those seeds do not last more than one or two seasons and don't have a super great germination rate, but for a nickle a package, I buy them anyway.)
If I win I will do something that most people wouldn't do.  I'd actually use them.  Even though the advertisement states they will last 20 years in a freezer or 15 years in a controlled environment, I will plant them in my garden next year.  As a survival garden I don't see this as a complete end all, I think there are some vegies that they provide too many seeds and others they don't provide enough.  If this is really a survival diet, more bean seeds would be needed.  Fifty of each variety isn't enough.  I also would like to see some additional seeds included such as corn, pickling cukes, and pumpkin. 
If I win these seeds I will let many of the plants go to seed.  Then I'll plant those seeds the next year.  That is where the test of the value of these seeds comes in.  Are they self sustaining? 
This contest is called ModernSurvivalOnline's Survival Seed's Giveaway and their site can be found at .  I read their site about once a month and at that time catch up on their blogs.  It's a pretty good site. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Washing Clothes

I sure like my washing machine.  I've never had to wash my clothes at a laundromat.  I've always had a washing machine at home.  Always a good one too.  But what if the washer didn't work?  My eldest daughter and her family were very poor for a couple of years.  They couldn't even afford to pay the fifty cents per load at the laundromat.  She washed their clothes in the front yard using a five gallon bucket.  She used a toilet plunger to agitate the clothes.  After several "loads" were washed she'd empty the bucket, fill it with clean water then rinse the clothes back in the bucket, again using the plunger.  Then she hung them on a clothes line.  It was a much harder method of washing than what I do, but you know what?  Their clothes were clean!   
What about the detergent?  Most people use way too much detergent.  It doesn't get the clothes any cleaner.  In fact, using too much makes it more difficult to rinse it all out.  I actually read the directions on my Costco detergent.  The container says you get 200 loads in the 28 pound bucket.  I do.  Do you?  I have a front loader.  The directions for it say to use either extra special twice the price detergent OR use half the amount of detergent that is recommended if you use regular detergent.  A regular load takes about 1/3 scoop of detergent.  My machine uses even less.  Around my house I bucket will last between 6 months and a year depending on how many people are milling around. 
If the power went out for good how would my clothes get washed?  Now if I was using the 5 gallon container and plunger system I'd probably use more detergent overall than what I use in the machine.  But still, one bucket should last a long time.  I usually have 5 buckets on hand.  Thinking about this as I am writing I realize I need to up this amount.  I'd like to have about a 10 year supply of non-perishables stored.  It's easy to do.  Before I started using the proper amount of detergent I was going through one bucket every month or so.  All I did to get the five was continue to buy the laundry detergent even though I didn't really need it. 
I have a couple of clothes lines and clothes pins.  Lots of clothes pins.  When my oldest kids were young I used the clothes line every day.  I worked from home so it was easy to take a break from working and hang up or take down clothes.  Now I usually use my propane drier although if needed, at any time I could switch back to the clothes line.  I also have two indoor drying racks that can go near the wood stove. 
I use bleach for my whites (only 1/3 cup per load according to my machine).  This means a gallon should last almost 50 loads.  I have 5 gallons for laundry (and more for cleaning, and even more for water purification).  If we had to go to a bucket washing era I'm sure we wouldn't have any more white clothes in our wardrobes.  We would still be bleaching rags and diapers just to sanitize them. 
One of the kids wets the bed.  When he does I use 1/3 cup of vinegar instead of the bleach.  It gets rid of the odor.  Again, a gallon can last a long time.

A trick that we have around here is that when everything is laundered and put away there is a place for it all to go.  There are enough hangers, enough drawer space, and enough shelf space.  What I have found is that most people hate doing laundry so they don't do it often.  Then they need so many clothes that they don't have the space to put it all away when it's clean.  Nothing more stupid than to wash your clothes only to keep them on the floor or bed or sofa to get tossed around and thrown back into the laundry because nobody knows if they are clean or dirty. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


We like to eat, don't you?  I don't like to spend a lot of money on food.  It's not that I don't have the money to spend; it's that I don't want to.  I'm not always successful though.  After all, I'd rather eat at In-n-Out than make hamburgers at home.  So once a month we will go out to eat at some cheap place. 


We have a garden.  We raise animals.  We enjoy this except for when the weather is really hot or really cold.  This means that we enjoy our outdoor activities about half the time.  This is fine for now because we don't have to take our garden or animal raising seriously at this time.  But we can switch to the serious mode in any instant.  The garden will be ready if we need to commit more than 30 minutes a day.


Our garden is big.  Others have seen my garden and comment about why in the world would I grow as much food as I do?  I can food from the garden.  I always have a year or two supply on hand plus what we get to eat fresh.  I also vary the garden each year.  A couple of years ago I grew about ½ acre of corn.  That is a lot of corn considering we weren't selling any of it.  We ate corn raw straight off the stalk.  We cooked corn for dinner.  I froze a bunch on the cob.  We picked bushels which I steamed then dried.  The kids took off the kernels.  We then stored the dried corn into buckets.  We had about 100 pounds of dried corn.   There was an awful lot left.  What did I do with the rest?  We gave plenty to the local homeless shelter.  The rest went to feed the animals.  They liked it. 


Our animal collection is pretty basic.  We can't have too many because we don't have a lot of land to support them.  I'll talk about our animals another day.  I've read some pretty ridiculous things on some survival sites about animals.  I don't want to raise chickens or rabbits in my garage.  I don't want to eat the squirrels that try to invade my garden (I said try…I'm a good shot).


We also have fruit and nut trees.  I can't think of a better gift to give someone than a fruit or nut tree.  This I will also talk about another day. The variety of fruits capable of growing in my neck of the woods is amazing.  I could eat a different type of fruit each day for a month without repeating.  More on this in the future as well.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The beginning

You may think TEOTWAWKI will happen somewhere else and not in your neck of the woods.  After all, you survived (you fill in the blank).  Whether you live in an area with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, winter storms, or in my case, none of the above, few people have been inconvenienced for more than a couple of weeks at most.  People may have lost their homes due to a catastrophe but there wasn't mass starvation or total anarchy to go along with that home loss.  Even the LA Riots were relegated to a small area. 


I can't really say what made me start thinking about having a self sufficient household.  Perhaps it was in the 1980s when one of my friends belonged to LDS church.  I was fascinated by their food storage programs but I didn't like that they emphasized using four basic items: wheat, powdered milk, honey, and salt.  My friend had these items but they were stored away in containers and never used. I didn't think that a crisis time would be a good time to start trying how to make gluten.  I knew there had to be a better way. 


But it's not just about food.  It's also about your home, your safety, and your peace of mind - both physically and spiritually.  In the worst case scenario there may not be food, water, fuel, power, or civilized society.  Most sites tell you to head for a small town or near wilderness.  You are advised to buy a big chunk of property with a spring and a rarely used dirt road as your entrance.  For most of us this isn't feasible, yet we also want to be ready for whatever the future entails. 


Our family won't pack up and move – at least not for the next half dozen years.  I suppose I could quit my job and move away with not much money in the bank hunker down somewhere else.  But I have to weigh the value of us moving to a distant place or staying where we are, which is near family, friends, and our religious community.  There is value to having the kids spend time with their cousins each week and going to religious training each week.  So we stay on our couple of acres in this medium sized town in our highly populated state of California. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What if it's today?

Two weeks ago I came home from my monthly grocery shopping at Costco and Winco and had a strange thought come over me. As I was putting everything in its place in my mini-Walmart of a garage, a question kept popping into my brain. Not quite popping, more like thunderous pounding. What If? Two simple words, yet really terrifying words when placed at the beginning of a whole list of questions.

What If today was the last day that the stores were open and full of supplies? What If the fuel supplies were cut? What If the electricity went out for good? What If I couldn’t get my propane tank filled? What If my family had to live on what I had on hand here at home? What If? What if I woke up tomorrow morning and realize TSHTF while I was sleeping? What if TOMORROW was the day? No advance warning…

When I broach the subject with my family or friends they just laugh it off, yet they’d all choose my house to shelter at when their ill preparations went sour. They would all congregate towards my property and expect that we’d all be able to survive together. They all naively assume that because I have a few acres we’d somehow all be fine.  I know very few people that I would want to live with for the short term, let alone the long term and in a stressful situation. My What If scenario does not include adding people into our household who have nothing to offer. I don’t need someone whose only ability is to complain about having to follow household rules or who wants to sit around and play video games all day.

But bringing the What If back to this moment. I’m not ready. I’d like to think I am, but in reality life would be very difficult if the power went out and the stores shut down tomorrow morning. So since I admit I’m not ready, and to be fully prepared will take months, ok let’s get back to reality, years since I don’t have unlimited funds or unlimited time. Where does that leave you? Either you just give up and say you’ll just keep reading blogs and pray that TEOTWAWKI won’t happen where you live or you get serious about preparing for yourself and your family. NOW!

This blog will post stories of what we have done, what we are doing, and what we plan on doing in the future.  Stay with us and learn.