One Woman’s View of Budget Preparedness, by Lisa L.

I wanted to write something for the contest for other ladies with children were in the same situation with wanting to be more prepared but not having the means to do so like the books recommend. I’ve had my frustrations but I’ve learned and bought gradually and wanted to share. 🙂 It always upsets me when I hear in the media or from people their point of view that people are helpless due to their income level. This is what I’ve learned so far, how to cook with wheat, stockpiling shampoo for very little and ways to acquire some supplies for a 72-hour-kit inexpensively.

1. Educate yourself! I was able to get every preparedness book I requested from inter-library loan. Now I have high speed Internet and there are so many videos on YouTube. I was interested in learning how to use wheat so this is my experience. 🙂 There are so many other preparedness topics and skills on youtube and in books.

Long Term Preparedness – Using Whole Grains

2. Learn about whole grains and different ways they are processed. Learn about red wheat, white wheat, oat groats, buckwheat groats, rye, and barely. Learn about the benefits of milling flour at home. There are so many different types of beans to learn about too!

3. Find where you can make a small purchase of whole grains. You can buy a #10 (large) can of whole wheat and cracked wheat from online retailers. If you use an EBT (Food Stamp) card, try a health food store’s bulk section. The point here is not to use a lot of money until this is an item you and your kids consume. You can learn with a small amount. 🙂

Try to eventually purchase wheat in different forms like whole wheat berries, cracked wheat , bulgar, whole wheat flour, and whole wheat pastry flour. Purchase items found at regular the grocery store too like oats, beans and rice.

4. Learn how to use your grains. Cooking with whole grains is a skill but it’s not complicated. A simple crock-pot makes it easy to cook wheat and other grains. One of the best cookbooks that helped me a lot is “Cookin With Wheat” by Pam Crockett. You can use wheat in other ways besides it’s flour form and baking bread. She has a lot of recipes that use wheat cooked in the crockpot in there. As far as using whole wheat flour, I found baking bread to be very time consuming but I always put whole wheat flour into prepackaged mixes like brownies and muffins. Make oatmeal cookies! Serve oatmeal for breakfast and try it with different fruits and nuts. Learn how to cook and season beans. Something simple like a ham bone gives them a lot of flavor. I use for new ideas. I like that site because I can convert recipes for two people.

5. Once you are using whole grains, consider purchasing grain processing equipment. This step was a long one for me. It was four years from the time when I learned about using whole grain and wanting a grain mill until I was able to purchase one. The IRS made a mistake on a previous tax year and sent me a check with interest so that allowed me to purchase an electric mill. I have the Marcato Atlas Grain Mill/oat roller (it manually flakes grain) and the Wonder Mill (electric grain mill to make flour from the whole wheat). Both have pretty good resale value compared to the initial cost [if purchased used] on eBay if you ended up needing to sell it quick to pay a bill. I use the grain flaker to crack wheat and turn oat groats into oats. I use the Wonder Mill to make whole wheat flour.

6. Buy wheat in a larger quantities like 25 lbs or 50 lbs. At this point you will already be using it in your meals. You can do this from the same place you bought it in a small quantity before. Do this even if you don’t have grain processing equipment but are cooking it on your crock pot. Look into buying other grains in the large quantities too like beans, rice and oats. Sam’s club has the best price on Bastmati rice. Learn how to store food in 6 gallon buckets with a mylar bag and oxygen absorber. The same place that sells you wheat should sell 6 gallon buckets except for a health food store. I have not tried to pack my food like this yet but it’s next on my list. 🙂 There are some great videos on YouTube that demonstrate this. You can buy grains already packed like this. For some things like rice, I plan to pack myself with the O2 absorbers and mylar bags myself since it’s more economical. (And sugar, too, minus the O2 absorbers.)

Long Term Storage – Healthy and Beauty Products

7. Combine coupons with loss leaders/sales to build a supply of health and beauty products like toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel every six months. I utilize the site (HCW). They have previews of ads for major drug stores. I don’t get a paper or clip coupons. I order them from a clipping service on eBay. Ads of chain drug stores are posted in advanced on HCW so you can order your coupons in time. If you get too much you or realize stuff will expire soon before using it, you can always post it on Freecycle. I guess donating it to a food bank or shelter is ideal but they never have donation hours when I can get there. With Freecycle (search it on yahoo groups with your city name) someone will pick it right up. 🙂

Short Term Preparedness.
Inexpensive ways to get started on a 72-hour kit. There are some great PDFs on the Internet and checklists about 72-hour kits. These is a just a few low cost things to get you started.

8. Bags. If you don’t have bags around your home to designate for this, buy some from the thrift store. There are a lot of varieties of backpacks and travel bags there. Be sure to check things like zippers and if there is any foul scent before you buy. I’ve had good success with bags there. You also want to buy a box of larger zip lock bags for hygiene items. Save some of your plastic bags from the grocery store too.

9. Documents & Notebook. Most banks offer free photocopying. Grocery stores have it for around 15 cents per page. Copy your ID, birth certificate, social security cards, bank account statement. If you don’t have things things start to acquire them. There are many lists on the internet on what to copy for an emergency financial folder. Make a list of important phone numbers, addresses and account numbers. I keep a notebook with page protectors for all of my important documents. My experience with hurricanes is the phone was turned on before power. I was able to get many things done over the phone. Keep some pens and sharpies in there. You may need to write ID on yourself and your children. US Mail may come back before power and phones. You may be able to send a letter before you have phone access so keep some stamps too and a few envelopes.

10. Medication. Ask your pharmacist for an extra labeled bottle and stick a few pills in there to put in your bag. If you use a local pharmacy you may want to transfer a few days worth to a chain pharmacy like Walgreens, CVS, Wal-Mart or Sam’s in case you had to leave the area.

11. Food. Stick food in there that does not need preparation. Make sure to eat this food every so often. See what your kids eat and what didn’t store so well. My son loves pop-tarts but they crumble pretty badly. I prefer canned food with a pop top lid. We like those small 1 – 2 oz cereal bowls too to snack on. Granola bars with chocolate melt and are messy. See what makes you feel full or not too. One day decide to only eat what is in there. Divide it up into 3 and see if that third gets you and your kids past 2 pm or not. 🙂

12. Drink. If you have a small child, use some type of drink that they can open without assistance. If they can’t twist off a bottle cap use a juice box they can puncture. You could also keep a water bottle that has been opened. Practice with them. I recommended stocking some Kool-Aid singles. In a situation where the National Guard arrives they give out a lot of water bottles.

13. Whistle and Poncho and [Mylar] Emergency Blanket. These are less than $2 each. Make sure your kids know how to blow a whistle. 🙂

14. Discounted entertainment. When school supplies go on sale pick up some for your children for your bags. I cut inexpensive notebook paper into origami size paper. You can get pens, paper, markers, crayons inexpensively before school starts. Keep the crayons in a ziplock because they can melt. Around Christmas time the dollar store has $1 chess boards, checkers, word searches, suduko, card games and coloring books. This cost more than a $1 but Rainbow Resource Center has some inexpensive instructional books by Dover about origami, drawing, and paper airplanes. I don’t have a daughter to use them but I’ve seen paper doll books too. I buy magazines for 25 centers each from the thrift store for my bag. I rotate these every few months.

15. Bug spray and sunscreen. You want to store this separate from your food. I find this highly discounted at the end of summer. I live in Florida so this is necessary here. You may need blankets from the thrift store or inexpensive warmers instead. 🙂

16. Discarded CDs. You can use these to reflect light. [JWR Adds: Save those ubiquitous AOL CDs for use in various projects including mirrors for home security, and to glue together front-to-front, and -hang up on monofilament fishing line, to scare marauding birds from your garden.]

17. Chewing Gum and Hard Candy.

Some Lessons Learned

It now seems so easy but at first I had no idea about purchasing small quantities of wheat. I called some of the vendors and had no idea about small cans, had no idea the health food store sold wheat, etc. It really took me years from the time of learning about it to purchasing it because I didn’t have the money for 50# and had no idea I could buy it in a #10 can or locally one pound at a time at the health food store. It would have saved me a lot of time had I known those things. I learned about 72-hour kits and low cost things from dealing with the hurricanes.

Here are three web sites that I found useful:

The Prudent Homemaker. I know Brandy from the internet and she eats from her food storage. The nice thing about her blog is she posts recipes that she actually makes from her food storage and garden. She is really talented in making the food look really nice too.

Filling Your Ark. I know Erika from the Internet too and she is just brilliant with food storage and everything else! The PDFs there are great too.

Crockett’s Corner
sells the Cookin’ With Wheat cookbook and DVD. They are both so helpful to someone new to long term food storage like wheat. It’s not just bake bread, bread, bread. LOL.

In Closing
My final thoughts are first don’t be discouraged if you have to “use” your preparations too outside of a disaster like you need the food or hygiene items in your 72-hour kit or items in your pantry you bought extra of, for a short-term emergency. I’ve had to use ours so much and hindsight it’s a blessing because I am more educated about what we will use or need. One time was this past January, I remember being so happy about all the canned goods I bought at a Sam’s Club [warehouse store]. I was finally prepared again for a short-term power outage. Not long after that I was unable to work due to a short-term illness. So soon we had very little canned food left. I was so discouraged but now looking back I see what was left (that we didn’t eat for some reason or didn’t eat as much I thought we would when purchasing) and what to buy double or triple of when I could.

Secondly ,prepare to the best of your ability. It’s now September and I still haven’t been able to replenish even an extra one week canned food supply. Keep learning and educating your kids about self sufficiency regardless of what you can buy or not and you will make better decisions when you do have the means to make purchases.