Monday, July 4, 2016


 or, How to Get Enough Protein When You Can’t Get Meat

All proteins, no matter what food they come from, are made up of amino acids.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. And protein is what your body needs to build and maintain your body’s health. And when we think of Protein, we think of chicken, beef, turkey, pork, fish and eggs.

When you eat a T-bone steak or baked beans (or anything that contains any protein at all, even a tiny amount), your digestive system breaks the food down into amino acids that are absorbed into your blood stream. From there, the amino acids are used to build the proteins that make up your muscles, organs, your brain and lots of other tissues.

Your body can make many amino acids itself, but there are some amino acids that the human body can't manufacture.  These amino acids are called the essential amino acids because you have to actually eat foods that contain them.

A deficiency in any one of those 10 essential amino acids can cause the proteins in your muscle and other tissues to deteriorate, as your body seeks to obtain the necessary amino acid it’s missing by stealing it from your own body tissue.

These are the essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own (so you must consume/eat them): 


Animal proteins all contain every single one of these essential amino acids, so they're called complete proteins. Eggs also contain every single one of these essential amino acids (see our Ova Easy Egg Crystals - they taste as good as freshly laid eggs and they have a 7 year shelf life!).

But plant proteins are a little different. Each plant that you eat has a different combination of amino acids. For example, grains and cereals are extremely low in Lysine. So low that they can't even be considered a source of Lysine. If you only eat grains and cereals, you won't get enough Lysine, and that's bad.

Luckily, legumes such as peanuts, peas, dry beans and lentils contain a lot of Lysine -- all the Lysine you really need. But legumes (the peanuts, peas, dry beans and lentils) don’t have enoughf tryptophan, methionine and cystine. Luckily (again), those essential amino acids ARE found in grains and cereals!

So when you eat some grains/cereals AND some legumes like dry beans or lentils, you will be getting all of the essential amino acids your body needs to be strong and healthy, and keep your brain powered up.

This is very good news for vegetarians, and REALLY good news for preppers who might not have access to steaks, chops and burgers when they are eating their food storage items.

Louisiana Red Beans & Rice
You don't need to eat both grains and legumes together at every meal. Studies now show that your body can get all the proteins it needs from foods that are eaten over the course of the day.

So you might eat oatmeal (a grain) at breakfast and lentil soup (the legume) at lunch. As long as you get a variety of grains and legumes throughout the day, you'll get ample amounts of each amino acid.

But when we are talking about living off of your stored food, where you don’t have access to fresh meats or eggs from grocery stores, knowing what to store for your optimal health becomes important. And you probably won’t be cooking up a 7 course meal.  So here are some easy ways to combine your grains and legumes to make a complete protein.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice
Grains plus legumes:

  • Black beans and rice 
  • Rice and lentils (did you know that brown rice and lentils cook in the same amount of time?)
  • Whole wheat bread and peanut butter
  • Bean soup and crackers
  • Mexican Rice and Beans
  • Chili and cornbread

Nuts and seeds plus legumes:

  • Roasted nuts, seeds, and peanuts
  • Hummus (chickpeas and tahini)
  • Lentils and almonds


For our purposes of cooking up a meal consisting of a grain of some sort and then a legume like lentils, pinto or black beans, red beans, black eyed peas (also called cowpeas), we want to know the correct ratio of grain to legume.

Rice and Lentils w/Curry Powder
Let’s use lentils and brown rice as our example, because the cooking time for both of them is the same and we can put both of them into the same pot.

We want to use 1 part lentil (or other legume) to 3 or 4 parts rice (or other grain).  This combo will give us all the essential amino acids our bodies need to make a complete protein and keep us healthy and strong.

I put ½ cup of lentils in a pot (that is the “1 part legume”) and then 1 ½ cups of brown rice in the pot (that’s 3 x ½ cup, so it’s the “3 parts grain”).  I now have 2 cups of dried rice and lentils in the pot.  Now, how much water?  With brown rice and lentils it’s easy – you always put 2 times the water in as you have the dried lentils and rice, so since I have 2 cups of dried lentils and rice, I will add 4 cups of water to the pot.

While cooking up only some rice and lentils will keep you healthy indefinitely, it will be a boring meal without additions like salt, other seasonings and additional ingredients.  And boy can I make rice and lentils a lot of different ways!  But that is for the next blog article – this one is about getting enough grains and beans and how much of each. 


Let’s go back to the 1 part legume plus 3 or 4 parts grain:

If you get a 25-lb bag of lentils, then you want 3 or 4 25-lb bags of rice (or rice, millet, barley, etc – whatever you would eat with lentils).  You might end up with something like this so you don't get bored with lentils and rice: 

~ 25 lbs of lentils and 75 pounds of rice 

~ 25 lbs of lentils and 25 lbs of rice, 25 lbs of millet and 25 lbs of barley

(To stretch your dollar, you can get 25 lbs of lentils and 100 lbs of grain and you'll still be making a complete protein from your lentils and rice/grain.) 

Once you get the concept of combining the grains with the legumes, the next thing to look at is how to cook them and VERY importantly, how to season the meals.
Fresh carrot, celery, onion, garlic

Dehydrated chopped onion
On any normal day, you might chop up some onion and throw it in the pot. Maybe throw a little garlic in there, and some salt, maybe some black pepper. And then peel and cut up a few carrots and toss them in along with a couple of stalks of celery. And then your rice and beans/lentils will taste pretty good.
Dehydrated mixed veggie blend

But we’re talking no Albertsons, no Safeway, no Walmart to go get the onion, garlic and carrots.  This is why you thought ahead and bought a pound of organic dehydrated minced garlic, a pound of dehydrated chopped onion and a pound bag of our dehydrated vegetable blend (carrots, onion, tomato, spinach, celery, red bell pepper and, green bell pepper) and packed them up in our Mylar bags along with oxygen absorbers.

So in our upcoming blog article I’m going to show how to make several different and tasty meals using our basic Lentils and Brown Rice from our food storage supplies.  Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why Doesn't My Bag of Food with Oxygen Absorber Looked Vacuum Sealed?

 AIR is made up of Nitrogen & Oxygen.

 "Air" is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, gaseous mixture, made up of mainly nitrogen (approximately 78 percent nitrogen) and oxygen (approximately 21 percent oxygen) with approximately 1% of lesser amounts of argon, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, neon, helium, and other gases.

 When you put an oxygen absorber of the correct size into a Mylar bag along with food, the oxygen absorber is going to scavenge (aka remove) the oxygen from the bag, nothing else. The bag will still contain all of the nitrogen and 1% other gases, so you will still have 80% of what you were calling "air" inside the bag. What is in the bag is now is nearly 100% nitrogen, which is why this process is nearly identical to the much more complicated method of flushing a bag with nitrogen gas from a big tank.

It will most likely LOOK like you still have "air" (oxygen + nitrogen + 1% other) in the bag because the VOLUME of "air" has only been reduced by 21% (the oxygen). But what is in the bag is NITROGEN, not "air" (oxygen + nitrogen).

The oxygen absorber will remove ALL the oxygen and leave ALL the nitrogen, so the chances of all your Mylar bags of foods looking vacuum sealed is slim. It's just plain physics. If there was a cup of "air" in the bag when you sealed it up with the oxy absorber, then you will have over ¾ of a cup of nitrogen still in that bag after 24 hours, which is exactly what you want.

Occasionally, a mylar bag of dried food with an oxygen absorber of the correct size will appear to be vacuum packed. Vacuum packing is a completely different process than nitrogen packing. Vacuum packing removes most, but not all, of the "air". Vacuum sealing leaves some "air" (nitrogen AND oxygen) in the bag with the food, which is in a clear single layer plastic bag not designed for long term storage (if you are using a Food Saver or Seal a Meal). It is OK if there is still some oxygen in a vacuum sealed bag because vacuum sealing is for short to mid-term food storage, NOT long term food storage.
So if your Mylar bags don't suck down hard the way a vacuum sealed bag does, don't worry. What is still in that bag is nitrogen, protecting your food for long term storage.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What I Found in Those Food Storage Buckets from 1989

I started storing food (in a serious way) in 1989. We were told we would be wise to "Store food" and that we should target 2 years worth. Of course it made sense to store food. Now, I have never been one of those people that gingerly dip their toe in the water to see if it's cold or not. Me, I jump in with both feet. And because there was a group of us taking on this task, I got to get a really diverse assortment of grains, beans, peas, pasta, nuts, fruits, seeds, spices and some things that were not really meant for long term storage. Others were probably doing the same thing.

I'd add to the collection of buckets every so often, so there are lots of buckets from 1989, a few buckets from the early 90's, the mid 90's and of course some in 1999 because who knew WHAT was going to  happen with Y2K – yikes! (Took me years to eat the canned green beans and soup that I bought in '99 hehehe. I think I finally gave the last couple of cases of corn to a friend around 2005 since I rarely eat corn.)

Here we are approaching December 21, 2012. That's an even BIGGER bugaboo date than 12/31/1999. I wondered (well, I had been wondering for a few years) how in the heck that food was that I put into buckets in 1989. No sense in continuing to store stuff that was no good. But you don't want to throw something away that IS good (especially if you have MY packrat genes from good ol' Grandma Simpson who lived through the Depression).

So I started going through the buckets. Mind you, the buckets had all been stored in pretty good conditions: you store buckets in a basement were it doesn't get blistering hot in the summer or freezing cold in the winter and that increases the shelf life of your food. And the heat is a bigger enemy of stored food than cold is when you are looking at dried foods like grains, beans, fruits and veggies.


Well, the wheat all looked perfect. Bucket after bucket of wheat that I didn't really have much intention of turning into flour to bake bread with (OK, there are probably some of you that bake your own bread on a regular basis, but I bet the percentage of readers who do is fairly low). But I figured I can grow wheat grass and juice it and since it is a magic elixir having that wheat that was still good is a dandy thing. So I quit looking in the wheat buckets. What I did instead was take a bucket of wheat and rock it back and forth. If the wheat "sloshed" back and forth freely I marked the bucket good and dated it.

I also looked in on buckets of Hulled Barley (a zillion times more nutritious than Pearled Barley), whole oat groats, millet, rye, corn, buckwheat and rice. The first test is 'Does it slosh back and forth, or has it turned into a solid mass, even though it looks OK?'

If it 'sloshed', that is, moved freely like fresh grain kernels should, then did it look OK? Smell OK? Then chances were extremely good that it WAS OK. Any bucket where I could take off the lid and rock the bucket back and forth a bit and nothing  moved, I blessed, banged the lid back on and labeled it Hog Food (no sense in wasting food – I know a person who raises hogs and it is fine for them).

So far I had only looked at whole grains. Then I came across some rolled grains, like oatmeal and 7-grain rolled cereal. It is said that rolled oats and other rolled cereal is only good for about a year or so. Well, the rolled oats 'sloshed', looked OK, tasted OK so I called 'em good and marked the bucket. The same with a bucket of the 7-grain rolled cereal – it looked fine, tasted fine so fine it was.

And then I opened the other bucket of the identical rolled cereal put up at the same time. YIKES! BUGS! BIG BUGS! ( I, of course, screamed like a girl which I rarely do.)  I didn't take time to investigate. I just bashed the lid back on the bucket and labeled it Hog Food (hogs don't mind bugs).


And then there were the pastas. The regular spaghetti looked as good as the day it was stored. The whole wheat spaghetti also looked just fine. The elbow macaroni: 100% corn elbows, whole wheat elbows, regular elbow macaroni – all looked as good as the day it was stored. Elbow macaroni seems like it will stay fine until kingdom come. The only pasta that looked a little iffy, not bad, just not quite as 'right' as it was when stored, was the spiral pasta. The plain regular kind looked OK. The three color spirals looked iffy enough that I labeled them 'barter or hogs'. I'm sure they weren't 'bad' where they'd make someone sick. They were edi  ble food that could save a life, but I already had plenty of elbow macaroni so it was ear-marked for someone else.


I also went thru some buckets of fruit. Now mind you, back in 1989 there was no such thing as Mylar bags or oxygen absorbers. We'd throw a handful of bay leaves into the bucket of wheat, bash the lid on, label the bucket, bless it and call it good. So I was mighty curious about the dehydrated fruits.

I had stored some raisins in jars in my spare room. Yes, it got hot in there in the summer but usually not terrible since we are up in the Northwest. And it got cold in the winter (not a problem, heat's the problem). Well after 5 or 6 years those raisins went right past being "sugared" to being down right gnarly. Nasty looking. I wouldn't try one.

What did I find when I opened the buckets where I had put raisins, figs, candied ginger, apple slices and peach slices into Freezer Ziploc baggies and then put those into buckets, blessed 'em and called 'em good? Well, I was surprised, I'll tell you that.

The raisins? They looked FINE. No kidding. I was amazed. I opened the Ziploc bag and tried a couple. They TASTED fine. Wow. 23 year old raisins ready to go into a bowl of oatmeal or into some cookies (or just snacked on). The figs had sugared just a bit. (Sugaring is where the natural sugars in the fruit crystallize on the outside of the fruit.)  So I tried a fig. A teeny bit more dehydrated than in 1989 but barely so. They were fine too. Holy cow!

The apple rings LOOKED fine but had zero taste left at all. Probably would save someone's life but there was no 'apple-ness' left in them so I marked them food for the hogs.  The peaches were pretty much in the same boat. But the candied ginger? It was exactly as it was when I put it up in 1989, which was GREAT.


I'd say so far most of the powdered milk and flour from 1989 went the way of the hogs. There were some organic whole wheat fig bars from 1989. Even in 1989 they only had a 6 months shelf life so I didn't even hesitate. Those would be some happy hogs :o)


Anything that didn't freely move in the bucket had become kind of welded together. That's usually a sign that moisture has caused the grain, beans, flour, corn meal, whatever to kind of bind together into a block. Would it maybe save your life if you had to eat it? Maybe. Would it maybe make you sick? Maybe. My rule of thumb is "When in DOUBT, throw it OUT." Better you should make room for something else that you know is good.


Monday, November 30, 2015

What kind of shelf life can I expect for things like rice and beans?

A question I was asked: What kind of shelf life can I expect for things like rice and beans if I package them in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers like it says on your website?
(see Long Term Food Storage Using Mylar Bags & Oxygen Absorbers)

A lot depends on the temperature where you will be storing the food. If it is a relatively cool place like a basement or shelter, you should expect 20 or more years. What are the 3 things that most affect food in storage? Light, heat and air. The mylar bags and oxy absorbers take care of the light and air part, so that leaves the temperature.

Beans, legumes and grains like wheat will pretty much store forever if stored properly. 2000 year old wheat found in the pyramids sprouted. Rice is a bit different and if you do some research you will find 20 different stories. But here are some good rules of thumb.

White rice stores longer than brown rice (but I eat brown rice not white rice, so I store brown).

Rice supposedly goes rancid after (pick one, depending on the source) 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, again with this affecting brown rice more quickly than white rice. If you have very old rice (like I have some from 1989) and you notice a rancid smell, it is the OIL in the rice grains, not the grains themselves. Just put the rice in water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let set a couple of minutes then drain. The rancid oil part gets thrown out with that hot water. Rinse the rice, put in fresh water and cook like usual.

Dairy products have a 2-5 year shelf life supposedly. Again, if it is cool, dark and no air, it will probably go way longer than that.

I just tried some raisins and figs from 1989 (brave, huh?) Always the researcher. The ones kept in the cool and dark were fine. The figs had “sugared” a little (where the sugar in the fig crystallized on the surface of the fig a bit).

I have also seen raisins stored in clear glass jars look pretty nasty after several years (OK, pretty many years). But they were just in a kitchen pantry which was much warmer in the summer, and in the winter with the heat on, and were hit with light more. I’d say it was primarily the temperature that did them in, because they did the “sugar” thing to the extreme and looked a bit too gnarly to eat.

One of my next experiments is to pop up some popcorn I stored back in 1989, then some from around 2000 and then some current brand new popcorn. I'll let you know how that comes out :-D


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Will Your Propane Tank Blow Up If It Gets Hit with a CME?

So a friend called me and asked if her propane tank would blow up if we got hit with a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) or an EMP. She wanted to know if burying the tank would help protect it or keep it from blowing up. She said a friend of hers buried her propane tank (supposedly to protect it). And just what IS the difference between an above ground propane tank and a below ground one?

Well, one thing's for sure - I recognize good questions when I hear them. So I am going to get some answers and get back to her (and you).

The Queen of Common Sense
& Purveyor of Preparedness

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Building a Grab and Go Pack
Or, What’s in YOUR Evac Pack?

The condo/apartment is shaking like crazy and the floor is cracking. You need to get out NOW. The water is already rising in the living room, rising faster than you could have imagined. At this rate, in another five minutes it will be up past your waist. You must leave NOW, while you still can.

If you think you will still be able to rationally gather some things before evacuating, you are dead wrong. Your brain, with or without your consent, will have moved you into Flight (Fight, Flight, Freeze, Faint: the brain will run you through those phases, in that order. It's standard wiring on the human model). The most you might be able to do is grab one thing, if you are lucky. So it better be ready before hand. It has to be easy to grab on your way out the main door, and needs to have some important things in it.


The Pack: Start with a duffle bag that can be worn like a backpack, or a hiker’s daypack or small backpack. Costco currently has a rolling 21” rolling duffle bag for $37 and a 30” rolling duffle for $47. These are cool because you can roll them like a suitcase, but if on rough ground you can wear them like a backpack.

Clothes: First of all, you need to take care of your physical self: sturdy thick-soled shoes in case you are walking over broken glass, nails, chunks of concrete; jeans, shirt, jacket, rain jacket or poncho (they make plastic and inexpensive nylon rain jacket/pants that you can pick up from a lot of sources), hat and gloves (year round. You live somewhere hot? It can still get cold at night), two pair of socks (one to wear while the other pair dries), a pair of underwear, leather palmed work gloves (you may be pulling glass or rubble off of people or clearing a passage for yourself).

Important Docs: Next get a gallon Ziploc freezer baggie. This baggie will contain important papers. Make a clear color copy of your driver’s license and if you have one, your passport or birth certificate. Put some cash in the baggie as well. Mainly smaller bills. No one is going to want to break a $100. Maybe a few blank checks (useless without the copy of the driver’s license). If you have extra credit cards, add one of those. Add a phone card – again, Costco has them for $20 and it’s 2.9cents a minute or less. If cell phones go out you can use any phone with your phone card, no change needed.

Include a copy of your drivers license, passport, social security card, insurance policy info, your bank account info, either snapshots of the rooms in your place or digital pictures on a thumb drive for insurance purposes, a copy of a recent utility bill. Imagine sitting with someone at your bank, having no ID or proof you are you, saying "But really, it IS me, just ask my wife. I need money out of my account and I need now because we have no food and no place to stay." And the nice lady behind the desk looks at you over her glasses with an assessing look and says "Um-hmmm sure it's you, Mr. Smith – is that what you said your name was? don't you have ANYthing that shows who you are? I'm sorry Mr. "Smith" we just won't be able to help you without some form of ID." Not what you want to hear.

Make a list of all medications taken by family members. Have a list of contacts, especially out of area ones as it is often easier to reach out of the area people than local numbers, with their phone numbers, cell numbers and text messaging info. Many times you will not be able to get a call through but a text message will go through. You may say, “Oh that’s all programmed in my cell phone, I don’t NEED a list.”

If your phone is lost, the battery fails or gets too wet to work what then? Someone else may let you use their phone, but all those numbers won’t be in THEIR phone. Make the list. Add contact info for your insurance company and the account numbers. I would also add a road map of the area – if one route is unusable you can find another one (if you are going to put a compass in your Evac Pack put it here with the map). Add a few sheets or thin pad of paper and a pencil (can be sharpened with your knife, and you should roll duct tape around it so you have several feet of tape which can come in very handy), in case you need to leave a note like “Have left for the Red Cross Center. Family all together and safe”.So you make up a baggie with all that info in it. Once you have gotten to safe ground, you WEAR that baggie of information. You buy (now) one of those pouches that travelers wear to keep their money, credit cards and passport safely tucked inside their shirt. YOU DO THAT, because if someone rifles through your stuff at a shelter and steals that? You now have another VERY big problem.

Toiletries: Pick up a travel size tooth brush, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, hand sanitizer, hand cream, a short comb, chap stick and a washcloth that you buy at a Dollar Store (why from a Dollar Store? Because they are VERY thin and will pack up very small) and put it all into a quart ziploc baggie. Use a Ziploc Freezer baggie because they are sturdier than the regular ones. Make one for each family member. Write their names on each baggie with a permanent marker (you won’t have one to do it later). It is a proven psychological boost in a disaster if you can wash your face and brush your teeth. It is a little piece of sanity in a world gone insane.

Meds/First Aid: Do you need blood pressure meds? Other meds? Tell your doctor you want to get a two-week supply for an emergency evacuation pack. Get the meds. Put them in a baggie so they are protected from water. Put them in your Evac Pack. This is SO important. Do not delay, do it now.

Add a first aid kit – you’ll want a really robust one for at home, and a smaller lighter weight one for your Evac Pack, but always get the best that you can financially justify. To the kit, add face masks and at least one CPR mask in case you have to give CPR (they don’t cost that much and are more critical these days).


Water: You must have water, but you may not be able to carry all the water that you will need. For this reason, you’ll want to include at least a quart of water per person in your family. Then add at least one empty quart bottle per person (or per two people if it’s a bigger family) and a way to make safe drinkable water. There are many ways to make water safe to drink, at a price range from under $10 (Katadyn MicroPur or Potable Aqua tablets) to over $300 (Katadyn Pocket Filter which is used by the US Special Forces). The SteriPen Journey Purifier uses UV light to kill all bacteria, even viruses, is good for 2,000 gallons of water and weighs only a few ounces (and for $99 is a great deal).

Food: For food you need to consider a couple of things: shelf life and “will the kids eat it”. There are the three-day/3,600 calorie food bars like those made by Mainstay (taste a bit like lemon shortbread cookies), protein bars can be found everywhere, beef jerky is good as it keeps a long time and gives you much needed protein, trail mix with nuts and fruits. If you have kids, consider adding a few things that may be a treat that would take their mind off the stress going on around them. They make mini bags of M&Ms, candies and raisins, there are fruit rolls, etc which might make the different between a happy child or a very distressed child (how long does a Tootsie Pop last? Might make the difference between a happy mom or a very distressed mom). Get a four-pack of Sporks so everyone has their own spoon/fork tool (comes in four colors so everyone can have their own).

Light: a minimum of one headlamp for each adult, with two sets of batteries (not installed) for each (again in a baggie so they are all together). If you have to mobilize at night you will need both hands so you need hands-free light. Why do we sell only Petzl headlamps? Because they Work Great. I use mine every day because I live out in the country where it is super dark at night. And if all the power is off all over the city or suburbs, it will be seriously dark where you are as well. You will need one hand for a child the other to pull the rolling duffle. Or both hands to clear rubble or to scramble over debris. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a really good headlamp (and in headlamps you DO get what you pay for). Buy one for the Grab and Go Pack but use it before hand. You will be a convert. I don’t leave home without mine. I’d also suggest a regular flashlight; the new LED flashlights can be very powerful as well as light weight.

And if the power goes out because of a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) battery operated lights may not work but 12-hour Light Sticks will. Get some 12-hour light sticks for the kids too – they each come with a lanyard so they can be worn like a person night light. They are perfect for kids. Put them in (yes, again) a baggie and maybe a couple of rolls of Lifesavers (the flavor, along with the light, will calm kids down a lot – they can't think about Cherry flavor and scary at the same time, aye?). It will give them confidence and allow them to see what is around them. It is also their own personal traveling nightlight that will stay lit all night long. Another great flashlight for kids is the Shake Flashlight: lightweight, inexpensive and FUN – just shake it back and forth and you have light. If it starts to go out, just shake and poofa! You have light again.

And get a lantern: you want lightweight and really efficient. Optimum carries a 3 LED 10 day lantern which will run 250 hours on four AA batteries, and weighs only four ounces. Or there is a nine LED lantern that is powered by a hand crank dynamo or car adapter that will even charge your cell phone, and weighs in at only 12.7 ounces.

Warmth: You want efficient, small and lightweight. Get an emergency bivvy bag for each member (they come in good, better and best) because you can crawl completely into it, helping retain body heat. Also get an emergency blanket for each person which can be worn while walking (the sturdier ones being better than the cheaper ones, get a 1-person version for kids and the 2-person version for each adult). If possible get ones that are better than the $1.50 ones. While these items might not be as comfy as a big thick sleeping bag, they can save your life.

Get a fire starter like the Blast Match fire starter– it works better than any other magnesium fire starter you will ever come across. Yeah it costs more, but there is no comparison. Put the Blast Match and some sisal twine (like brown twine they use to tie packages with or sell in a garden shop – you pull it apart and make a fluffy wad, use your Blast Match and you have fire right now – Poofa!) in a baggie, along with a Bic-type lighter and some strike anywhere matches or survival matches.


A really good idea is a radio that will pick up AM/FM and the NOAA weather channels. A great radio is the Eton FR360 Solar/Dynamo Emergency Radio that gets AM/FM and NOAA weather radio stations (with emergency alert) and is powered by solar, hand cranking, AA batteries or electricity. Plus it is a flashlight. Or get the smaller one that is ideal for packs: the Eton FR160 Microlink Solar/Dynamo Emergency Radio.

For protection, pepper spray is very effective. Every family member (especially kids) should have a really loud whistle that they wear on a lanyard. The child should know that if they ever get separated from their parents that they should STOP WALKING, STAND STILL AND BLOW THEIR WHISTLE. Then the parent can quickly locate their child. If both parent and child keep walking, looking for the other, they can circle all night.

Toilet paper. Probably don’t need to go into how handy having this is. Way handy. But you don’t want a big ol’ roll of it. What works great is the kind they make for backpackers with no cardboard tube in the middle. It’s cheap and it’s small, so fill all the nooks and crannies in your pack with TP. You won’t be sorry!

A collapsible bucket – takes up virtually no room but is perfect to haul water over from the water dispensing place so everyone can wash up or refill their water bottles.

Feminine hygiene supplies.

Decent Ponchos - better than the $1.50 plastic ones (a garbage bag is as good as one of these)

50 foot hank of heavy nylon cord - set up shelters, lash stuff together. When you need it you need it.

Pocket knife - extra good if it does multiple things. I once used my Swiss Army Knife saw to cut two long poles, then lashed them together with my cord (see above) to make a travois so I could haul my stuff out of the wilderness. Real handy to have a good knife and some good cord (coming soon to the OP website or go to REI or Cabela's etc).

And throw in a few heavy weight black garbage bags. They have nearly as many uses as duct tape (that you wrapped around that pencil up in the Informational Docs baggie). They make great rain gear, a dry place to sit, lots of uses.

If you have kids (even if they’re teenagers), pack a small stuffed animal for younger kids or girls, a deck of cards, maybe a travel set (small and light) of checkers or tic tac toe or other board game.


As you may have noticed, the checker board is the last thing on the list. The collapsible bucket is waaaay below the meds and copy of your driver’s license. Why? Because you need to prioritize what all you stuffed into your evac pack.

If you CAN’T carry it, you WON’T take it. Build a Grab and Go pack. Then put it by your main exit door. Practice so that you are sure you can actually carry it. Have somebody check their watch and yell GO NOW!!!!

Pick up your evac pack, and haul butt at a fast pace to where your car is parked. Open the car and throw it in. Check watch. How long did it take you? Could you lift it? If not, did it have wheels so you could roll it to the car? Could you pick it up and throw it into the trunk or back seat? Or did you struggle with the pack? If so, lighten that load. If you have a partner, the pack must be able to be carried by the less strong of the two of you in case the stronger of the two is not at home at the time of the emergency. If you have to abandon your car for whatever reason, you will have to carry or drag anything you want to end up with. If you have 2 kids and have to evacuate at night you BETTER have a headlamp because you will have to wear the evac pack pack and have a child on each of your hands. Holding a flashlight in your mouth - not so good.

The big message here is to do something now (even a pitiful grab and go bag is 100% better than NO grab and go bag). Then improve on it. Then improve it again until you have something that is fairly comprehensive.

For more good info on becoming better prepared, go to www.OptimumPreparedness.com and click on the What Do I Need? link and the Checklists link.

And last but not least, what is THE number 1 important thing to have in any disaster or emergency? A level head.

Until next week,

The Queen of Common Sense