Monday, May 20, 2013

Emergency! Got Prepped?

I've recently gotten interested in emergency preparedness.  I've always been interested in being self-sufficient - vegetable gardening, sewing, knitting - you know, doing things for yourself, and not relying totally on the supply infrastructure.  But I read a couple of books (The Prepper's Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster, and Prepper's Instruction Manual: 50 Steps to Prepare for Any Disaster), and they've made me think.

I think about tornados, and ice storms, and local flooding.  I remember being without power for a week in January.  But everybody thinks about natural disasters.  What if your income dries up?  Or there's a medical emergency?  Or your house burns?  Or grocery stores can't get deliveries?  So many "what ifs!"

Here’s an interesting note – one of the first things I read in the emergency preparedness book was to DECLUTTER YOUR HOUSE!  Because when your house is decluttered, you will be able to get to your emergency exits (fire, etc.) and your emergency supplies (first aid kit, food, candles, generator, batteries, flashlights, etc.).  One more excellent reason to get rid of the STUFF!

Anyway, I bought a NOAA weather radio (at the grocery store, of all places!) and set it up.  That was pretty fast!  The most time-consuming part was editing which alerts for it to actually announce.  I didn’t think hurricanes or tropical storms or avalanche watches/warnings would be of much interest here in Indiana.  

The bigger (and more long-term) project was making sure there is enough food in the house to feed us all for a month.  The first step is to KNOW what you DO have.  Oh dear. 

Because our house was originally built in the mid-1950s, the kitchen is a decent size, but there is a lot of wasted space, and really, not much cabinet space, so I had put a metal shelf unit and some rolling wire basket carts in our utility room, elegantly renaming this hellhole our “pantry!” 

The shelf unit sat perpendicular to the wall, alongside the furnace.  The carts were lined up along the wall.  That was so “everything would be accessible.”  Well, that was the original thinking, but it really WASN’T.  Stuff got shoved to the back of the shelf unit, and lost in the baskets.  And I never knew how much I had.  Another place we store food is in a corner carousel cabinet in the kitchen – a dark, scary place where things also get shoved farther and farther back until they languish and expire.  UGH.

So, I started Friday evening.  I rolled all the wire basket carts into the kitchen.  Two are small with fixed baskets.  One is a little larger, with pull-out drawer-type baskets.  One is much larger, with pull-out drawer-type baskets.  Most of them were less than half full!

I took everything off the metal shelves and piled it on the kitchen counters.  I dusted and washed the shelves.  I moved the unit out and cleaned the floor where everything had been sitting.  I put the unit back, but this time along the wall.  Amazing.  I can get at everything on the shelves without reaching way back and knocking things off behind!

I went through all the stuff from the shelf unit and threw out everything beyond its expiration date.  I threw out heaps of stuff, which left LOTS of empty space!  I filled up a couple of trash bags by the time I was done.  I took a marker, found the expiration date for everything and wrote it in an OBVIOUS location on each item.  I sorted the items by what they were, and then sorted them by the expiration dates.  I pulled all the canned goods out of the carousel cabinet and did the same to  them.

I’ve been collecting 12-pack soft drink can packages for this project.  I cut a hole on the top on the package at the back for loading them, and put a label on the front of each one.  Then I loaded the date-labeled canned goods into the packages, oldest first.  I lined them up on the shelves.  Now I have can dispensers!  I can see what’s supposed to be in that location, and how many there are.  A 12-pack holds six 15-oz cans of veggeis, etc.  It would probably hold 12 of condensed soup cans.  It won’t hold the larger soup cans (they’re too tall).  So I have a package of diced tomatoes, one of corn, one of cream style corn, one of stewed tomatoes, etc.   All very organized and neat.  I put all the unopened cereal boxes on the top shelf.  I put other boxed stuff on the second and third shelves.  All the canned stuff is on the bottom 3 shelves. 

I really didn’t get to the wire basket cart things.  (That Man and That Girl came home early from his drag race – he lost first round – RATS!)

But I was fixing dinner, and got something out of the one other (wall) cabinet in the kitchen where I keep some food.  I pulled another item out, looked at the expiration date, and pitched it.  Um, about ¾ of the stuff in that cabinet got the heave-ho.  It’s looking pretty empty!  That wasn’t even part of the plan yet – it just happened.

I didn’t get to the bottom shelf of the carousel cabinet, but oh my!  What an improvement!  The stuff I organized, I can SEE – ALL OF IT.  And it will all get used – first in, first out!  I’m going to put things in there that I only keep one or two of – syrup, cooking oil, olives, Tabasco – that kind of stuff.

The next step will be to empty those wire basket carts and either put them to use somewhere else, or GET RID OF THEM!  I’m going to keep the big one.  It fits along the wall next to the shelf unit perfectly, so nothing will be blocked.  Everything will be truly accessible. 

Then I will seriously tackle the CHEST FREEZER.  Oh my.  The Black Hole of Calcutta.  Not good.

Pray for me!

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