It drives me crazy when people say, "I'm not going to prepare for nuclear war because if the bombs ever fall, everybody is going to die anyway." They forget that a nuclear bomb is basically a local, temporary event. Yes, everyone dies within a few miles of ground zero, and a lot of people are injured outside that radius, but if you're five or ten miles from a bomb, you're going to survive the initial blast, and you stand an excellent chance of surviving the fallout as well -- IF you are prepared in advance for the event. The radioactivity of the fallout evaporates within a few days. The bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did indeed destroy those towns, but there were many many survivors, and Japan didn't collapse into chaos and disappear afterwards; neither will the U.S. collapse and disappear after a nuclear attack. Here's the low-down on what officials expect would happen if a nuke fell on Washington, D.C. (which is one of my greatest concerns):

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2012/03/27/national/w003933D74.DTL

From the article: "Thinking about the unthinkable, a U.S. government study analyzed the likely effects from terrorists setting off a 10-kiloton nuclear device a few blocks north of the White House. It predicted terrible devastation for roughly one-half mile in every direction, with buildings reduced to rubble the way that World War II bombing raids destroyed parts of Berlin. But outside that blast zone, the study concluded, even such a nuclear explosion would be pretty survivable."

Of course, in order for it to be "pretty survivable" you'd need to be prepared in advance for the event, and know what to do. So quit with the "everybody's gonna die anyway" thinking, get off your butt, and get busy.
 
Much has been made of the fact that I store enough spaghetti noodles to feed 1,000 people or more. People ridicule me for this: "How could you ever possibly need that much spaghetti?" To answer that question, let's do some basic, fundamental Armageddon arithmetic:

If I am ever called upon to care for all of the members of my family, plus all of the members of my husband's family, including parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and an ever-expanding crowd of grand-nieces and grand-nephews, I'm going to be feeding 40 people, in addition to feeding my husband and myself. 42 people times three meals a day equals 126 meals a day. 126 meals a day times seven days a week equals 882 meals a week...times 52 weeks in a year equals 45,990 meals. If I have enough spaghetti to feed 1,000 people, now I only have to come up with 44,990 meals if I want to feed my family for a year.

Doesn't seem like so much now, does it?

When speaking of "enough spaghetti to feed 1,000 people" a person tends to visualize a truck-load of spaghetti. However, bear in mind that a pound of spaghetti feeds 8 people, so it takes only 125 pounds of spaghetti to make 1,000 meals. Size-wise, 125 pounds of spaghetti fits inside one or two picnic coolers, or a Rubbermaid tub about the size of the one that holds the Christmas decorations in the attic.  Because spaghetti routinely goes on sale for 50 cents a pound, that represents a financial investment of $62.50.

You probably spent more than that filling up your gas tank this week. How long did THAT expenditure last you? 

Spaghetti is one of the least expensive, longest lasting, and most compact survival foods you can buy. It's easy to prepare, and everybody loves it. What else can you buy that stores for decades, cooks in minutes, and costs six cents a serving?

After a disaster, can you see yourself saying, "Thank goodness I have this Rubbermaid tub full of Christmas decorations in my closet" ? Or would you rather be able to say, "Thank goodness I have a Rubbermaid tub with a thousand plates of spaghetti in my closet" ?

I challenge you to come up with a list of the people you would want to take in and care for after it all hits the fan. How many people are on that list? Sit down with a calculator and do the Armageddon Arithmetic. Work out the math for however long you think a disaster might last.

THEN tell me I'm stupid for having a thousand servings of spaghetti in my house.


 
The Dollar Store is one of my favorite sources for prepping goods. It used to be that a buck would buy a two-pound bag of white rice, or a one-pound bag of beans. Now, for the same money you get a 24-ounce bag of rice and a 12-ounce bag of beans. Don't expect the price of food to be dropping any time soon!

 
This week at Walgreens solar garden lights were on sale for $1.50 each, so I bought a flat of them for $36. Considering what I pay monthly to keep the lights on in my home, this is a bargain because it assures me I'm never going to be sitting in the dark all night long even if the grid goes down. Not only do I have perpetual light, but I also have a perpetual supply of batteries now, because each light runs off a single rechargable AAA battery, which can be charged in the sunlight during the day and then used in various appliances, such as radios or regular flashlights, at night. I also found this idea online and I'm going to give it a try - making solar jars.
 
Although I'll be portrayed in a episode of National Geographic's "Doomsday Preppers" program as preparing for a nuclear war, I truly feel that a more likely scenario is apt to be economic collapse. "So what?" you may say. "We've survived economic collapse before - just look at the Great Depression!" Well, there are a few things to keep in mind when comparing economic collapse today to economic collapse of yesterday. The first thing to consider is that when the economy began its tumble in 1929, the U.S. went into the Depression with a surplus in the treasury. Now, we have no surplus whatsoever and are instead dealing with a $15 trillion deficit. That's going to make it tough to set up programs like the WPA and CCC. Second, world economies are now so intricately intertwined that it's hard to have one part of the network go down without pulling everyone else down with it. In the 1930s, this wasn't the case; co-dependent economies were just beginning to burgeon back then. Third is the fact that in 1930, the population of the U.S. was 106 million. Now it's 308 million. It's going to be a lot harder to set up soup kitchens and government jobs for three times as many people. Finally, in 1930 the U.S. had a largely rural population. Now, we are more urban. People were able to return to the family farm back then and earn their living from the land. Now, many city dwellers have never even set foot on a farm, much less ever grown any food. Honestly, a human being can probably survive forever if all there is to eat is a single egg for breakfast, an apple for lunch, and a potato for dinner. It would probably be much healthier to eat such a diet than it is to eat the wagonloads of crap we shovel into our bodies today. It would be especially healthy if the person eating the egg, the apple, and the potato is also the person tending the chickens, minding the orchard, and harvesting the potatoes. But how many people are situated in an environment where that would be possible today? Especially the ones in the city with no one in the country who's willing to take them in? With an overextended deeply indebted government unable afford to feed a burgeoning population, and that population having no way of feeding itself, wouldn't it just make a little bit of sense to set aside extra food during the times of plenty, in order to tide you through lean years ahead?
 
I routinely budget $20 a week for my habit of prepping, and this week that $20 bill bought me 20 rice mixes for $10 (coupon magic), 25 boxes of mac & cheese for $7.50 (loss leader sale), and five pounds of white beans for $2.50 (discount bin). All together, that's enough food to feed 220 people. That works out to nine cents per meal-- and I consider that to be twenty bucks well spent. If I took that $20 and spent it on MREs (Meals-Ready-To-Eat) I would be able to purchase about four of them, with each MRE providing a single meal. So, when given the choice of purchasing 220 meals for twenty bucks, or purchasing four meals for the same money, I feel it's wasteful to buy MREs. That's strike one for MREs.

MREs have a shelf life of about five years. When compared to the shelf life of rice, pasta, and beans, which falls somewhere between "indefinite" and "forever", that's pathetic. Do I want to risk spending my hard-won dollars on food that might turn out to be inedible when I am most desperately in need of food? Hell no! That's strike two against MREs.

If I have rice mixes, and I also have garden vegetables, I can stretch the rice to feed even more people. If I add venison or trout to my mac and cheese to make chili mac or fish casserole, the same is true. But if I have veggies and venison and a shelf full of MREs, I'm not going to be able to stretch those MREs because MREs are so rigidly packaged and proportioned that they offer no such options. Strike three for MREs.

When I purchase a pound of beans, the beans weigh one pound, and the plastic baggie they are wrapped in weighs the merest fraction of an ounce. With a package of macaroni and cheese, the macaroni weighs 6 ounces and the cardboard box along together with the cheese sauce wrapper might weigh a tenth of an ounce. So, the ratio of food-to-trash is very favorable. But try unwrapping a single MRE. Put the edible stuff on one end of the scale, and the garbage generated by unwrapping it all on the other end of the scale. My guess it that the scale is going to balance perfectly. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the trash actually outweighs the food. I don't feel like packing my limited storage space with garbage, so that's strike four against MREs.

I understand that soldiers in the field need a hot meal without having cooking facilities available, but as a civilian who will undoubtedly always have access to at least a rustic coffee can rocket stove or fire pit, I'm not worried about that. If you want to play soldier, play soldier. But if you want to be a prepper, pack practical prepper foods and avoid the garbage.
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The entire contents of a single typical MRE
 
Yesterday I fell into a conversation with an acquaintance. We began discussing my hobby of constantly preparing for calamity, catastrophe, and collapse. I told her I spend about $20 a week on my habit. "That's ridiculous," she said. "That's crazy!" She was smoking a cigarette, and crushed the butt out. "Twenty bucks a week? You're wasting your money!" she said. I asked her how much she spends every week buying cigarettes -- was it equal to twenty dollars a week? More than that, she conceded. "So, let me get this straight," I said. "You spend twenty bucks a week on something that's pretty much guaranteed to kill you, and I spend twenty bucks a week on something that's pretty much guaranteed to keep me alive -- and I'M the one who's crazy?"
 
I love it whenever I find evidence that the food I'm packing away might actually "make it" such as this tub of lard, which was rendered and packaged more than a decade before I was born.
 
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One of my favorite Armageddon foods is pasta. Spaghetti and macaroni and cheese are the absolutely cheapest ways to store pasta, but I love the Pasta-Roni mixes so much that they're worth the extra money. Spaghetti routinely sells for 50 cents a pound; Pasta-Roni's best price is 79 cents for a four-ounce package. But the scrumptious factor makes Pasta-Roni worth the extra money. Those powdered cheese packets will last forever, and they're worth it. But one thing I absolutely hate about Pasta-Roni is the way it's packaged: The box is mostly air! Nothing but empty space! I suppose the manufacturers will say it's due to "settling during shipping" but I think it has more to do with fighting for shelf space shoulder-to-shoulder with competitors, as well as trying to trick the consumer into believing you're buying a big bunch of pasta when you're really buying a little handful of it.  At any rate, I refuse to make room in my limited storage space for mostly empty boxes of pasta. So, I open them and consolidate them.

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This picture illustrates what you're getting for your money: A fist full of pasta, a cheese packet, and a box that's mostly empty.

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This pile represents what's inside five boxes of Pasta-Roni, which all  fit into a single box, meaning the boxes are originally only 20 percent full, and 80 percent empty. The boxes, which normally hold only four ounces of pasta, will hold a pound and a half of  noodles and five cheese packets easily.

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The box on the left is stuffed full, allowing me to throw away the four empty boxes on the right, thereby saving my limited and valuable storage space. Wouldn't it be great if American manufacturers didn't waste so many resources?


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In this very pertinent video, it's thoroughly explained that our inability to do math is going to wipe us out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_VpyoAXpA8