Monday, April 22, 2013

Preparedness & Household Consumable Supplies

 Hi Fernando,
  Just another fan of your blog and videos here.  I really appreciate your reasonable and realistic take on things.

 In my current situation, I'm not as prepared as I eventually want to be, but we're getting there steadily.   I'm living in a small apartment in a big city and I'm still recovering economically from a divorce, so that limits some things, but there is one thing I'm doing that I wanted to get your thoughts on.  

I just refer to it as 'pipelining' (in a reference to how most computer CPUs consume instruction codes) and what I mean is the practice of having 2-5 months worth of all the things we consume in storage here in the apartment, and when needed, putting the oldest item to use first, hence the "first in - first out" pipeline.   With the exception of some perishables such as fresh meat and vegetables for upcoming meals, which we tend to buy just a day or two before use, we've slowly accumulated a stock of pretty much everything one buys at a store from dry and canned food stuffs, to other goods like storage bags, wrapping paper, soap, laundry detergent, cleaners, tooth brushes, paper products, and so on and on.  We've really gone out of our way to identify everything that might be applicable, even if they are items we use only irregularly.  When we run out of something, we check storage, pull out another one if we have it, and add it to the shopping list - so that when we go shopping, we are mostly replenishing storage and not stuff in current use.

Ok, so this is all probably pretty basic preparedness stuff - the idea being that if there is an interruption of any various sort - unavailability at the store, sudden price controls,  banking system holiday, gas shortage or transit outage, etc... that we can just stay tight at home and ride out the storm.   Since all of the items being purchased will wind up being used or consumed in the near future, we don't feel  like it's a waste of money on something speculative.   Given that we're in an apartment, the 'depth' of our 'pipeline' is limited by storage space. 
In the near future, we're likely to move outside the city and into a small house, and should have considerably more storage capacity.
What I wanted to ask you was if you had some thoughts on just what is a good 'depth' (in time) for 'how deep' to make our pipeline.   i.e.  at what point of stocking up, does the value of doing so start to really diminish?  


Hi Matt. I very much agree with your line of though. I too lived in an apartment for years at a time and understand the storage space limitations.
The greatest problem I had was finding ways of storing water. We had experienced both power outages and water shortages and by far what worried me the most was being without water. You thinking spending a couple days without power is bad? Try turning off the water supply for a weekend and see how that goes. Knowing well that water is a top priority what I did was store it in 2 litter soda bottles and just using up any free space I could find, from under the bed to behind furniture, under couches or corners in the dressers.  

As you correctly point out, these are supplies that you will use anyway, dry food, soap, detergent, toilet paper, so having them sure isn’t wasted money. In fact, if you stock up you can save money by buying in bulk when you find good deals. 

What’s a good “depth” of supplies in term of time? One month as minimum, with six months being ideal. And if you can extend you dry food staples so as to cover 12 months in a worst case scenario, that would be perfect.
I believe that a month is the minimum you should aim for in an apartment , at least for everything other than water. You just cant store that much water in an apartment. In an apartment, I’d go for at least two gallons per person as a basic minimum so as to have enough water to drink during short term emergencies.  A month would buy you enough time for shelter in place scenarios which are generally short term events. 

Ideally you would have more, given that you have space for storing it. Six months worth of supplies would buy you time during recessions, job loss, rioting and problems in the supply chain during longer term emergencies. The logic here is that if stores and groceries aren’t working normally after a month, let alone two months, you have to plan on relocating anyway because things are about to get very ugly! The supplies will buy you time to get things sorted out without worrying about keeping your family fed, clean and healthy. A cash stash will help keep power, heating and other bills paid, cover any holes in your preps that you missed or procure transportation and relocation funds.

Some of the things to stock up on: 

Dry pasta (lasts forever and keeps you alive)
Canned vegetables (preferably in glass jars)
Tomato sauce
Vegetable oil
Toilet Paper
Hand Sanitizer (alcohol based)
Laundry detergent
Dishwashing liquid
Disposable plates and cutlery (great for when there’s no water to clean up)
Trash bags

Any other suggestions, leave them in the comments below!
Take care everyone,



DocP said...

I agree that stocking up on these supplies is absolutely critical to keeping some semblance of normalcy in one's life. I also think that some of these items, like toilet paper, could be used for barter situations for other necessary supplies that you need.

Anonymous said...

we buy quick rolled oats in 50-lb bags for about $50. Also have boxes of costco soy milk, both of which last a long time. Soy milk tastes different, but has calcium and is fairly cheap.

On a separate note, seeing as Reggie Middleton via zerohedge is expecting some major Irish banks to "Cyprus" depositors, are you prepared for this eventuality?

tweell said...

A method to cook that pasta could come in handy. Some cans of sterno are cheap and don't go bad. I prefer a camping stove using white gasoline, myself.
Light could also come in handy: matches, some candles, LED flashlights.

Don Williams said...

1) In an emergency, one can stopper and fill a bathtub with water --USA model holds around 40 gallons.
Of course, you want to give it a quick scrub and rinse first : ).

2) A second issue is how to heat an apartment and cook food if the power is off long term.
-- although in that event you probably want to get out of the city because the city water pumps
are no longer working, the urban water storage tanks will run dry and the place will turn
into a desert (unless you are near a river and have some way to filter/purify the
rather unappealing water--eeeww.)

Some apartment buildings have small park areas with barbecue grills that might work with
charcoal, scavenged tree branchs, twigs,etc --but wood smoke attracts hungery predators.

One short term fix, especially if your apartment has a balcony and your apartment manager
allows it, is a grill's propane tank fitted with a cooking grill attachment, e.g


WITH adapter hose to connect bulk 20 lb propane tank ( Coleman adapter hose will probably
work with other models of small propane stoves )

(Note: Some of these type of grills come with high BTU-High pressure (Psi) regulators for
homebrewing beer , cooking turkeys,etc -- for normal cooking you want the low PSI (2- 10)
burner model to get more cooking time out of the propane tank (simmering,etc.). )

3) I haven't used one for cooking (versus grilling) but supposedly you can calculate the hours of burn
time by dividing the tank BTU capacity by Burner BTU output setting. The standard
20 pound (4.73 gallon) propane tank has about 433,000 BTUs of fuel. Assuming you
set your burner at 10,000 Btu/hr , you will have 43 hours of cooking time. That would
work out to 43 days if you only cook a total of 1 hour per day -- and almost 2 months
if you only used the burner for 45 minutes per day. Depends on whether you are heating up
a few cans of soup or also making a couple of pots of coffee.

Unfortunately, making food from cheap staples uses more fuel.
Cooking large beans would consume significantly more whereas baking bread or
cooking rice or small lentils would probably be somewhere in between. Try it and
see what your mileage would be. Grilling raw steaks also uses fuel.

Maybe Ferfal has some experience with the fuel consumption associated with various foods.

4) Always shut off the fuel at the tank when finished cooking -- gas leaks in high rise apartment buildings
are not a good thing:

FerFAL said...

"On a separate note, seeing as Reggie Middleton via zerohedge is expecting some major Irish banks to "Cyprus" depositors, are you prepared for this eventuality?"
It would be ironic if I wasnt. :-)

Anonymous said...

I use this method too, but I call it a “buffer”, maybe because I’m electrical engineer and not a programmer! :)

One food item I didn’t see mentioned is canned meat. We always have on hand large quantities of canned ham, SPAM, roast beef in gravy, turkey, chicken, tuna, salmon, clams, and sardines.

They all keep well for years, and we work a can or two into our regular meals every week. They don’t even need to be cooked.

Don, I have a propane set up very similar to that, and I use it as my “outdoor kitchen” during the warmer months, and for frying smelly or smoky things outside even during winter. I actually prefer having at least one 40k btu or higher burner for quickly searing or stir frying. It’s actually one of the keys to successfully making authentic Chines stir fry.

And as for saving energy, nothing beats a pressure cooker! I recommend everyone buy one or two (before they’re outlawed as bomb making components…) and learn how to use them. Besides saving energy, they are great time savers too.

Jay Jay

Anonymous said...

I came up with this plan for my family about two years ago when I was under threat of losing my job. This makes so much sense it makes me laugh. Our plan is for one year and includes anything we use personally or as a household on a regular or semi-regular basis. With this plan you can also be one step ahead of inflation. Besides the list above, we include: feminine hygiene, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, shampoo/conditioner, bath soap, etc. Everyone should do this.

Anonymous said...

FerFal -

I am curious why you suggest vegetables canned in glass jars? While I home can in jars, they are much more easily broken than metal cans. Most commercially canned products come in metal cans, glass is rare at least in the USA.

We store dried vegetables which we use often in our soups and stews. Many of these taste as good or better than canned vegetables.

With regards water, two gallons a day is fine for drinking and cooking, but will not begin to touch what is needed for personal sanitation and flushing. If water was out for long, keeping clean would become a major issue. Some waterless replacement for flush toilets will be a must.

If your house is on a sewer, (or a septic system that uses pump stations), and you are not at the highest elevation in town, have you considered that with no power the pump stations can't run. In any long duration power outage the sewers will back up and render many homes unlivable due to sewage in the home.

Anonymous said...

me again - in addition to the rolled oats and soy milk, we also have about 40 lbs of dried Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP). We use it to bulk up ground meat or fry it up by itself. Similar protein content to meat.

Penny said...

Perhaps I overlooked it in the commentary, but pet food is an essential in my household. I purchased a large Rubbermaid container with lid to seal the bagged food odors because we store ours in the garage and don't want to encourage mice. To supplement water, we also rotate bottled juices / Gatorade in our survival storage area.

Penny said...

Perhaps I overlooked it in the commentary, but pet food is an essential in my household. I purchased a large Rubbermaid container with lid to seal the odors because we store ours in the garage and don't want to encourage mice. To supplement water, we also rotate bottled juices / Gatorade in our survival storage area.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Although I live in a 3 bedroom house, storage is an issue for us too. We try to keep a fully stocked pantry with canned soups, veggies, canned meats, rice, canned fruit, flour, pasta, etc. In some cases we use a vacuum sealer (for helping extend the shelf life of frozen meats, rice, and pasta) and in some cases we use mylar bags with O2 absorbers (for flour and such). For water, I keep about 15-20 cases of bottled water to use for drinking that we rotate through and replace as we go (this is for a family of four plus our dog - a 50lb husky) and maybe a dozen 1 gallon containers that get replaced every 6-12 months that we would use for cooking. Also, I have a 65 gallon rain barrel that stays full in my fenced in back yard I would use for flushing - although I also have ways to treat it if needed for drinking/cooking. I have not seen anyone mention medical supplies. I stock a large amount of bandaids (small to very-large), gauze, tape, over-the-counter meds like aspirin, cold & flu, allergy, antacids, etc., cold packs, tweezers/scissors, ankle/wrist/elbow/knee braces, snake/insect bite kits, burn kits, dental emergency kits (temporary fillings and pain killer), ibuprofin, etc. Much of this can be bought at dollar stores much cheaper than Walmart or drug stores. Also stock vitamins and prescription meds. We keep our older eye glasses when we get new ones, as they are better than nothing if your current ones get broken. Another thing I highly recommend is disposable fire extinguishers (they come in cans similar to wasp/hornet sprays) they are cheap and have a good shelf life for the price.