Do It Yourself - Yogurt

I've been a long-time fan of the McDonald's Fruit & Yogurt parfait for many reasons: the low price, convenience, total nutrition of carbohydrates, fat, and protein, the fruit, and convenience. But, I know that I can do better at home making my own.

So I set out on a mission to do just that.

First off, I bought quart of vanilla yogurt, a box of strawberries, and a sleeve of 9-ounce cups. The yogurt was about $6.00 (for the organic, all-natural kind), the fruit was a tad out of season so a quart of strawberries was around $5.00. The strawberries had to be used right away, and I quickly learned that a quart of yogurt makes about 6 parfaits if that's all we're eating for breakfast. While I felt a little better about the all-natural yogurt, the price tag was almost double of the dollar version at McD's. Additionally, I didn't even add blueberries or granola, and the cups were a bit wasteful to throw away each time. We also noticed that trying to eat on on the run was difficult because the natural yogurt was much more runny than McDonald's.

The next time around, I found a bag of frozen berries on sale about 16 ounces for $2.30. McDonald's isn't overly generous with the fruit, so while I can make my parfait to my tastes, comparatively, the 1 lb bag would go a long way. (Assuming 1 ounce/cup, that's about $0.14/cup.) Secondly, I bought yogurt on sale. This time, store brand, plain yogurt. It was a little thicker than the organic, all-natural, but I had to add ~1/2 cup of brown sugar and a 1/2 Tablespoon of vanilla to make it palatable. The cost of the additions were negligible since I already had them in my pantry, but the additions made the yogurt thinner - not what I wanted. The advantage, though, was that a quart was only $3.00, making the cost of each yogurt parfait about $0.64.

If you're a yogurt eater, you know that greek style yogurt is very popular right now because of the thick consistency. So, finding inexpensive greek vanilla yogurt would be the best scenario. But the greek style is actually more expensive than the regular.

So here's where I'm at - why not make my own?

I went to several sources for instructions and to see what sort of specialized equipment was needed. This one: calls for stainless steel pots, a thermometer, and a heating pad - all things that I have in my house because my husband is a home brewer.

This one: uses a slow crock cooker to heat the yogurt and a thick towel to insulate while the cultures are doing their thing. I definitely have those.

A glass gallon of organic milk without rBGH is pricey, over $6.00. But by making my own yogurt, the cost of that milk-turned-yogurt becomes ($6.00/24 yougurt parfaits) $0.25, a bargain! Add the frozen fruit at $0.14 and I have a $0.39 yogurt parfait. The great thing is that I can use any fruit that I have in the house, especially ones that need to be used up - chopped apples and cinnamon, bananas and chocolate sprinkles, fresh strawberries on sale, raspberries from the garden.

Functional Friday: What disaster should I plan for? (or how disasters work in the real world)

Most emergencies last less than an hour in total: a car accident, power outage, thunderstorm, flat tire, a trip to the ER.  (The trip to the ER will inevitably take longer, but things are usually under control in an hour.)  Often many household dilemmas are short lived:  what to make for dinner, a button comes off, the light bulb blew out, we're out of tissues.  Even your local police and fire, who manage life and death incidents within a highly structured framework, deal will many issues in this short time frame. Begin planning for the disasters in your life that will last an hour or less but at an inconvenient time, you can expand the plan to cover bigger and more dramatic situations later. 

Emergency preparedness always starts at home.  Most of us don't have the knowledge, time, or resources to plan for every possible threatening scenario.  Start small and build on what you've got.  Let's take a look at several considerations that may help you focus on your needs and concerns.  (If you haven't read the post, Disaster Cycle, you might want to hit that first.) The key to your personal preparedness is to find your comfortable balance in each of these.  Each side of the equation must be considered in your emergency planning and preparation, but you must determine what resources will be devoted.

Potential Loss vs. Likelihood of Occurrence
Potential Loss asks what can I lose if this event happens.  Will I lose the contents of my fridge, my house, my life?  Likelihood of Occurrence is how probable is this to actually happen.  Is is more likely that you'll struggle to recover from a storm or a job loss?  Like investing your finances or buying insurance, you must determine what goals and what risk you are comfortable with in preparing for an emergency.  I do not specifically prepare for a plane crash near my home, even though I live near a busy airport and the crash could be devastating, it's doubtful that will happen in my lifetime.  I do prepare for power outages, although though they pose a much smaller physical risk.  In the past five years, we've had nearly ten outages that lasted more than a few seconds and three lasting more than 24 hours.  Chances are it's going to happen again.  And I can plan and prepare for it.

Mitigation vs. Preparedness
These two concepts go hand in hand, and often appear to overlap.  Mitigation is making more permanent or ongoing changes that reduce possible losses, avoiding an incident altogether.  Flood mitigation for your family might include moving.  Preparedness is making more flexible but temporary changes that increase your ability to respond to an incident.  Flood preparedness might include insurance, an evacuation plan and supplies.  Consider your resources and tolerance to change when considering these changes.  Weigh both options in light of your situation.  Don't forget to consider ongoing costs when comparing plans: generators need regular maintenance, food supplies need rotated or replaced, new team members require training.

Survival vs. Convenience
Let's be honest, the incidence of life and death situations in the US is relatively low.  We live safe comfortable lives with very few uncontrolled risks.  There are people out there who will tell you that TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) is coming, and we need to be ready.  I am not one of those people.  I believe that in modern survival situations, decisions are generally made based on training, experience, and what they used to call common sense.  I'm all for it (survival), but I believe you and I can't plan for it exclusively. There are exceptions like a blanket and portable heater in your stranded car in freezing weather, or an extra supply of medication after an earthquake, or bottled water stored at home during a power outage with no running water (been there, done that).  If you can plan and implement a solution for a likely survival situation, do it.

However, I believe that most of the preparations we need to make are convenience plans and that they are important.  I would like a change of clothes and a snack if I'm stranded in my car.  Or maybe I hope to make a good impression on my son's girlfriend that he brought home unexpectedly for dinner.  How nice it is to know that Fluffy, our cat, is safe with us after the gas leak was discovered at home.  (You're right, of course, it sounds like Fluffy may have been in a life and death survival situation for a moment.)  My own disaster plan doesn't include building my own shelter, eating bugs, and using improvised tools like an episode of Survivor.  I suppose I could, but that wouldn't be very convenient would it?  I plan for beef jerky, chocolate, and ramen noodles.

Supplies vs. Training
I've emphasized the importance of keeping emergency supplies with you in your daily routine: kits at home, go-bags in the closet, a flashlight and water bottle in your purse, a change of clothes in your desk drawer, snacks on your car.  But what if you cannot get to your supplies? A flash flood, a chemical spill, or a flight delay could keep you from your well stocked emergency kit.  Knowledge is power, and there are situations where your training will take you further than any super tool or snack bar.

Hopefully you'll not have take out terrorists to save humanity, but think about your favorite action hero (MacGyver) as he improvises with a ball point pen, a stick of chewing gum, and three banana leaves to rescue the prisoner.  In the real world, that's all training, and there are people out there who can do that.  Knowledge is power.  For you, a training class in first aid with CPR is probably the place to start, but the sky's the limit for how far you take your disaster education.  (The Red Cross offers great courses.  A local CERT class may be the next step.  FEMA offers online courses for citizens.  Over 200 colleges and universities in the US offer a degree in emergency management.) 

Disasters vs. Symptoms
In personal preparedness, citizens are asked to look at an overwhelming range of possible disasters and formulate some sort of plan for themselves.  Although you must determine which disasters to prepare for.  For planning purposes, it can be helpful to list the potential symptoms of each disaster.  The disaster itself can be described, in my mind, as the initial newspaper headline. (Anyone out there still read newspapers?) What happened?

Tornado Flattens 15 Local Homes
Flooding Threatens Downtown Businesses Residents
Unemployment Levels at All Time High
Explosion Impact Leaves Residents Cut-Off for 48 Hours
Transportation Strike Expected to Continue Through Next Week
New Baby and Career Leaves Mother No Time to Juggle Her Life

Because disasters are so variable, it's a chore to create a personal plan for each event.  Symptoms of a disaster, in contrast, are what that disaster means to me or to you.  Some symptoms of disasters include the loss of basic necessities: clean air, clean water, nutritious food, safe transportation, effective communication, safe shelter, heat or cooling, cooking resources, personal safety, and the potential to restock supplies.  These symptoms overlap from disaster to disaster.  I choose to address each of these symptoms and formulate a overarching and effective plan.

In the next few weeks, we'll walk you through compiling the information, a plan and a kit that you can use to keep preparing for the best in a variety of difficult situations.

Related Posts
Family Emergency Plan

Four Rules of Three

The only way you could have missed this month’s coverage of the Blizzard that rolled through the United States is if you were intentionally unplugged on a tropical island, somewhere.  Much of the snowfall was measured in feet, not inches, and the wind made effective cleanup impossible until the storm had completely rolled through, shutting down large parts of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri.

Many harrowing stories came out of Chicago , where the city’s Lake Shore Drive was sealed off due to several jack-knifed buses.  Commuters in cars and on buses were stuck from about 6:00 pm to many after midnight and after – no food or water, running out of gasoline to keep their cars running and the heat on, unprepared for the storm.  As many as 900 vehicles were stranded. The wind and snow blinded those who tried to leave their vehicles and exit the road.  Photos show closed cars and buses full of snow.  There are stories of rescuers on snowmobiles pulling people from their vehicles. These were people who were just on their way home from work, some who left early to get home before the fury of the storm and were caught in one traffic snarl after another.  Many left their cars right on the roadway.

Winter isn’t over yet and it’s not too late to prepare an emergency bag for your vehicle! The Midwest has been slammed with some serious wind chill factors. In fact, the advisory on said that frostbite can happen in 30 minutes on exposed skin. I was thinking to myself that I really should have ordered that palette of chemical hand warmers to line my bed. And I kid, but it’s not far from the truth. These are the conditions that create the perfect storm of ridiculousness where people have to find a Red Cross Shelter. High winds downing power lines combined with bitterly cold temperatures will mean that somewhere, someone’s heat may be out this week. I already feel sorry for them.

In survival training, many people talk about the rules of 3.  You can go:
  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

Three hours out in the wild Earthly elements and you’re done for? Seems crazy doesn’t it? In the wake of the blizzard and seeing the footage of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive situation, it didn’t seem so far-fetched. And I started thinking: how do you prepare for that? Fierce wind, incredible snowfall, and no where to go.

Well, your car isn’t a bad place to be. Remember that emergency car kit? Make sure you can get to it, and make sure you have these things in there for spending a night in your car:

Water – essential, cold temperatures mean low humidity and you’ll need to stay hydrated. Most likely you won’t be doing much sleeping, and staying on guard all can require you to be in top form. Don’t eat snow! (Yellow or otherwise.) This will cause rapid hypothermia. How many people are typically in your vehicle? Plan for this. Did you reach back to find that your water bottles are frozen? There are car-charger baby bottle warmers out there. Chemical hand warmers can help to melt it, too. If you car is running, put the bottles on the floor next to the heaters. Some people keep a coffee can with a little candle and lighter to melt snow. Any sort of open flame is dangerous and I don’t recommend it, but when you’re stuck, improvise and think! If you’re taking shelter outside of your vehicle (the one with synthetic, flammable upholstery) the coffee can and fire will work.  Any container of snow placed in an above-freezing environment (like inside your car) will eventually melt.  If it doesn't melt, leave it be.  Don't sacrifice your most precious possession of body heat to melt the snow for water. 

Food – Yes, candy is a nice thing to have on hand in case of emergency and it keeps well, but don’t expect to feel satiated after downing 7 Hershey bars and a bag of Tootsie Rolls. In the winter, when your vehicle is less likely to be hot, keep nutrition bars in your car. Many are balanced with protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Cell Phone Charger – The minute that you feel you could be in the car for a while (whether you’re stuck or just caught in a traffic jam), plug in your phone and start calling someone to let them know where you are. Be as detailed as you can be about your location. Keep your phone charging as long as your car is running. That way if you run out of gas, you have a fully-charged phone.

Extra cold-weather gloves, socks, hat and scarf - If you have attempted to dig yourself out during a snowstorm, your cold-weather accessories may be wet. It is important not to sit with wet clothes in an extremely cold car. Frostbite will develop more rapidly.

Alternate clothing - If you wear pencils skirts and 3" Cole Haans to the office, you can't be out in winter weather without something a little more practical. Throw in stretchy yoga pants (that will fit over whatever you have on), a couple of pairs of socks, and the hoodie! (Or keep your gym bag in the car.)

A warm blanket & an emergency foil blanket – A warm blanket will create loft with pockets of warm air to insulate you. The emergency foil blanket reflects your body’s own long-wave radiation back to you, keeping you warmer.

Chemical Hand Warmers – I recommend the flat pouch that is activated when exposed to air. Most don’t get warm enough to burn, and it’s small, thin size is good for putting in shoes or gloves.

Windshield Scraper & Brush – This should go without saying, but it’s key. I’ve seen people scraping ice off their car with a credit card.

Bag of ice melt – Mine’s small, just a gallon-sized plastic zipper bag. It melts snow, it gives traction.

Small Folding Shovel – A shovel is good for many reasons, but in the snow, you might need to dig snow out from around your tire.

Flashlight & Mirror – The storm could be over after dark, and someone might be out looking for you. The key to being found is contrast and movement. Hear a vehicle driving by? Wave that flashlight. Reflect any nearby light source (street lamp, flood light) quickly to draw attention to yourself.

A Few Tools - Tape, a knife, some plastic bags.  A bucket, can, or bowl with a lid.  (When you gotta go, you gotta go.)  A pencil and pad of paper. If you have kids, some toys or games are important, too.

Stay in your car! - If you run your car for power and warmth, make sure the tail pipe is clear of snow and that you have a front window cracked a bit for fresh air.  If at all possible do not leave your car at all.  If you must leave the car for safety, leave a note about your group and where you intend to go.  Remember that you can survive for days on nothing but water, and even the most desperately lost survivors are usually found within 48-72 hours. You will be found in your car.  Try to stay in your car or remain in the first shelter you find.

Beans, Beans, the Wonderful Fruit...

Photo Credit: Mats Heyman
I cannot help smile as I recall this rhyme that my cousin taught me when were in elementary school.  It must have been ghastly listening to the two of us chanting this amusing verse, but we were right.  Common beans just might be magical as Jack (of legendary beanstalk fame) thought they were.  I've recently fallen in love with these wonderful legumes for their nutritive and "clean eating" properties.  Beans are economical, versatile, shelf stable and SUPER good for you.  When we use dried beans, we also avoid additives like sodium and BPA, and we reduce our carbon footprint by reducing packaging, processing, and shipping.  My kids love them, but my husband doesn't, so I've been carefully collecting varieties of beans and interesting recipes, hoping to come away with a winning combination of meals that my whole family can enjoy while I (silently and inconspicuously) bask in the glory of the money I've saved and food additives I've avoided.  I made a simple lentil dish this week that everyone at my house loved.  I've included that recipe and a few links to other bean-y recipes that we all enjoyed. 

Boston Baked Beans (Here's where I mentioned these before.)
Curried Ham and Mayacoba Bean Salad
Red Beans and Rice

Easy Lentils (serves 6-8)

6 rashers bacon - optional (I call them slices, but was recently informed they are rashers.)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2-3 ribs celery, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, If you didn't fry the bacon.
2 c lentils (rinsed and sorted - Lentil do not have to be soaked.)
4 c chicken, beef or other broth
2-3 carrots, peeled or sliced (or frozen carrot slices)

Fry bacon until crispy, remove from pan.  Saute onions and celery in bacon grease or olive oil on medium heat for five minutes.  Add lentils and saute an additional five minutes, stirring constantly.  (Add additional olive oil as needed.) Slowly and carefully add broth.  (Lentils may "pop" as you add the liquid.)  Reduce heat and allow beans to simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir in carrots and bacon crumbles and simmer an additional 30 minutes.  Serve with cornbread.

Easy Cornbread (serves 6-8)

1 1/2 cup flour (I use unbleached or whole grain white.)
1 cup corn meal (I use Hodgson Mill, which is whole grain.)
1/4 cup (I sometimes add 1/2 cup to make it very sweet.)
2 teaspoons baking powder (I use aluminum free.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c milk
1/4 cup oil
1 egg (or two egg whites)
1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)

Mix dry ingredients, add wet ingredients, stir in corn kernels.  Pour into greased 8 inch pan.  Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

Functional Friday: Go-Bag Part V - What's Next?

Where should I keep it?
Somewhere clean, dry and convenient to get to in an emergency (Not buried in a closet.) I don't recommend a garage because of the temperature fluctuations.  The basement is fine if it's clean, dry, and easy to get to.  A hall or coat closet might work.  Some families and households have each member store their bag in their own room.  (With kids you'll probably want to oversee this concept.)

But you said I need more than one bag!
That I did.  Keep something at work.  It can certainly be smaller, if you like.  But an emergency is as likely to happen while you're at work, and you want to be ready to stay or go.  A friend of mine tells a funny story about kissing his wife good-bye and going to work knowing that impending flooding would strand him at work for the next two to three days.  When he gets to the part about wading through flood waters to get from his office to the convenience store across the street because he was hungry, I stopped laughing.  He needed a go-bag at work.

My sister called me soon after starting her son at daycare.  In the first weeks after compiling these kits, she had unexpectedly used several items from his daycare and car emergency go-bags.  She needed an extra bottle (when one broke), a jar of strained prunes (You know what that was for.), and the hoodie from the car (during an unexpected cold snap).   She replaced them all immediately, of course, but she was thrilled to be able to solve problems so conveniently.

I have frequently used the extra clothes in my office.  I try to balance the outfit I keep at work.  It needs to be dressy enough that I can get away with wearing it when I spill coffee (or mustard) down my front.  But it needs to be comfortable enough that it's worth changing into in an emergency (like bad weather).

Keep something in the car.  I highlighted a news story last December where hundreds of people were stranded in their cars on icy highways.  Your four wheel drive won't do you any good in a traffic jam.  Once you're stuck in traffic you're there, no matter what you're driving.

When is my go-bag good enough?
Remember the list of risks and likely events you made a few days ago.  If your bags (and their location) suits each one of the risks you identified, then be done,  Go-bags (like any project) can be overwhelming and grow into a monster that you want to get away from.  I constantly tweak my supplies and ideas.  That may make you crazy.  When you're done and you're happy, put it away.  Know it's there when you need it.  (But don't forget to get it out next year to check over.)

This Series' Links
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Need
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Purpose
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Bag
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Basic Stuff

Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - What's Next?

Communication is the foundation of any relationship...

...even in an emergency!

Your family needs a communications plan.  Whether it's a flat tire on the highway, a trip to the ER, a storm that knocks out power, or a devastating earthquake, knowing in advance who to call to get help or to tell you're OK is critical.  Effective communication often helps not only to provide peace of mind, but also to keep others out of danger as well.

Most government and disaster relief agencies work directly with the media to get information out to the public.  What to do, where to go, what to expect.  Use your radio, television, and internet to stay on top of events.  Remember that the electricity may be out.

When the power goes out, your home phone may still work, if you have a landline phone that does not require a power source (no cordless) and doesn't run on VOIP, such as Vonage or U-verse.

Unless they have intentionally prepared in advance, your employer's phone system will probably not work during a power outage.

When you don't have a cell phone signal, you may have internet access and texting ability on your cell phone.

Even if you don't have a signal at the moment, texting from your cell phone will retry sending a message from your phone several times.

Keep your cell phone charged at every opportunity - at work, in the car, at home.

You need a simple way to recharge your cell phone when the power is out.  I keep a car adapter and a crank radio adapter.  You can buy solar chargers as well that obviously require sunlight.

You need your contacts' phone numbers and email address with you in digital (on your phone) and written form in an emergency.  If your phone is dead, you may be able to use someone else's or have them call for you.

A benefit of speed dial is that you are more likely to use it in an emergency.  Simpler is better.  (I just hit one key on my phone to speed dial.) The downside of speed dial is that we often don't know the numbers by heart.

Some online email providers allow you to send messages as text.

Local and federal government agencies, research universities, and disaster assistance agencies monitor twitter for disaster updates, status reports, and immediate needs. 

FRS and GMRS radios may be as helpful in an emergency as they are on vacation.  But only if you know where they are and the batteries are charged up.

Your family needs an out of town/out of state contact in case of emergencies.  Phone systems or disaster relief agencies may permit long distance calls, even when local lines are jammed.  Let your family practice using this person as an "information central."

You are likely to respond to an emergency as you've practiced, unrehearsed plans go out the window.

Red Cross and other agencies use resources and technology to help families and friends find one another during and after a large scale disasters.

Recent wide-scale disasters like the 9-11 terrorist attack, hurricane Katrina, California wildfires, and the Haiti earthquake have made the public and first responders aware of the capabilities and limitations of cell phones in a disaster.

Functional Friday: Go-Bag Part IIII - The Basic Stuff

Making a list
Hopefully by now you have a list of emergencies and scenarios that may require you to head out quickly.  Take a minute and make a list of personal items that you absolutely MUST have to stay healthy and sane in any 24 to 72 hour period.  You should consider your go-bag a comfort kit.  What items will help you physically, mentally, and emotionally if you have to act fast and get out, whatever the emergency.

Assembling your kit

Pick a basic change of clothes.  Start with one outfit -- something comfortable and warm, maybe something you could sleep in.  Toss a pair of socks and underwear with it.  Put it in the bag.  See how easy that was?  You now have a go-bag.  Now, let's make it better.  You can pack more clothes if they'll fit, but more than three simple outfits will get bulky.  Pack layers for flexibility and warmth.  Pack familiar and comfortable clothes.  Consider a hoodie.  Hat and gloves - A summer ballcap and work gloves or a stocking cap and fleece gloves? You pick.  Flip flops for showering, maybe?

Add a 1 liter bottle of water.  (I prefer this to be a new unopened bottle, not a refill.  It's going to sit there for a year.)

Think of the food you might want to eat if nothing else were immediately available.  Keep in mind special dietary requirements, but don't try to get healthier than you eat everyday.  Watch the fat and sodium content.  Check the "best by" and expiration dates on food.  I try to stay within the listed date for most things, so look for food that lists a year or more before it expires.  Unless you further research food packaging, leave food closed in original wrappers.  (If you are going to store this in the garage or in the car, your choices are limited due to extreme heat and cold variations.)

Here are a few starter suggestions:

Tuna, chicken, or salmon in a pouch - easy open, no draining, low in fat and high in protein, long dated
Slim Jim-type snacks or beef jerky - saltier than pouches, but less messy and more sharable
Nuts and nut butter - I have an 8 oz. jar of peanut butter and packs of almonds in my pack

Crackers, cereal and chips - Often short dated for best taste, these foods take a little research if you want to drop them in the bag and replace them a year later.  Prepackaged flour tortillas often work.
Granola Bars and Oatmeal bars - These often contain whole grains.

Dried fruit or fruit leather - Make sure it's made of fruit, not added corn syrup.
Pudding and fruit cups - These are delicious, but they can rupture and leak. Pack carefully.
Chocolate - I include cocoa almonds and a chocolate Clif bar to get my chocolate fix.
Drink mixes - My pack has Gatorade mix (the kind WITH sugar) and artificially sweetened mixes.
Snacks - Mints, gum, and your favorite candy can be a big perk in an emergency.

You can also easily find ready-to-eat entrees (Pahd Thai by candlelight, anyone?)  And there are many just add hot water items (ramen noodles and instant potatoes), but these require the obvious - hot water! MRE's are a great option for nutrition and dating, but they can be bulky, expensive, and caloric.  I've eaten quite a few, and I've not had anything I wouldn't eat again.  I'll add lots of ideas and suggestions later.  To protect against spills and odors, seal your food in a ziplock-type plastic bag.

Personal Care and Hygiene Items
Medication - I recommend you keep at least two weeks of medication in this bag.  Most pharmacy meds have a year or more dating.  I exchange mine in September each year.

Also consider any special health care needs.  My son uses a special soap - I'd hate to deal with an outbreak of his sensitive skin issues in a disaster situation.  Put hygiene items in ziplock-type bags, as well. 

Antibacterial gel or wipes
Razor and shaving cream
Tooth brush, paste, floss
Nail trimmers
First aid kit
Bug repellant, sunscreen
Kleenex, toilet paper
Cotton swabs
Feminine hygiene
Contact solution and case

Here's where things get a little weird for some people.  Up until now, we have included the items you might need for a trip to grandma's or the Holiday Inn.  But we're about to add a few items that may seem a bit dramatic.  Remember that you are trying to stay healthy and comfortable in an unpredictable situation.  Add what you like and leave the rest out.

Extra glasses - Put last year's prescription in your bag.
Hair ties - These are useful for more than just putting your hair up.
Pen, pencil, marker and a notebook - You may need to make notes, signs, or just doodle.
Hand towel and washcloth
Light sticks - I buy 15 bracelets for $1 and keep a pack of them in every bag. 
Air mattress - The cheap plastic swimming pool kind on clearance in August for $2.
Emergency blanket - The silvery plastic one they wrap around the hero at the end of the movie.
Extra ziplock-type bags - I always pack a few extra gallon sized bags.
Rain poncho - I buy them for under $1 at Wal-mart.  (Disney sells them for $7 every time it rains.)
Pocket knife or scissors
Chapstick with sunscreen
Small flashlight or penlight and extra batteries (stored out of the flashlight)
Extra cell phone charger
Extra set of keys
Radio with extra batteries (stored out of the radio)

Preparedness and Personal Items
A copy of your plan - with phone numbers and addresses
Cash, credit cards
Family Photos
Copies of insurance cards, bank cards, and birth certificates
Vaccination records and other important documents
Map and/or directions to safe places

Remember that this is a work in progress.  It took me literally three years to assemble an basic go-bag for all six members of my family.  Hopefully these tips and suggestions will encourage you to get started and help you know which direction to proceed.

This Series' Links
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Need
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Purpose
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Bag
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Basic Stuff

Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - What's Next?

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

This week, I am attending a FEMA class about Weather and Flooding.  I expected it would be rather routine.  Many of these classes follow a similar framework - educate, plan, alert, respond, and resolve.  Boy, was I surprised.  Sure, it follows the expected framework, but not only did we learn to mark up weather maps like a TV weather anchor, but we were taught to "predict" storms location and severity about 24 hours out.  (God help us all if anyone ever has to depend on my predictions alone.)  I learned the basics of how, when, where and why severe weather (like thunderstorms and tornadoes) form.  I learned why they predicted snow but we got sleet last week (above looping graphic).  We watched video clips of beautiful and dangerous storm centers, storm chasers saving a police officer, and passenger cars floating down streets and worse.  Our instructor, a seasoned National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist, along with his local team (and hundreds of other professionals across the nation) help provide a constant flow of weather information to you and me. 

After all I learned, here's what you and I need to know and need to do:
  • Check the local weather report once a day, perhaps every morning.  The forecasts are pretty accurate 24 hours out.  Get a sense of what's going to be going on, know whether to check later, too.
  • Get a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) weather radio and leave it on at home and at work.  Weather can change quickly, a NOAA radio will help you stay safe.
  • The NWS website is accessible to every one of us.  Just point and click!  You can look at the detailed, robust, and identical information that every US television or radio station uses (including the Weather Channel).  They all use the exact same data.
  • Learn about your local weather threats, how to avoid them, and take warnings seriously.  Tornadoes are a destructive force, but did you know that more people are killed from lightning strikes?  However, the most people die from extreme heat and cold exposure each year.  They provide the data, you and I must choose to react appropriately.

Take two and call me in the morning!

I've been down and out with a headache for much longer than typical.  I tried all the usual treatments and remedies - pain reliever, antihistamine, decongestant, Vicoden, hot tea, hot bath, good night's sleep, stretching, massage, etc.  It won't go away.  Just this evening, things seem to be looking up.  But the situation made me think of life without all the medicinal amenities I'm accustomed to.  I don't want to be caught without those modern miracles.

I've recently been considering a bit of medication stockpiling. Nothing crazy or wasteful, just assurance that my family will have what they need when they need it.  There are numerous reasons I've considered that this expanded medicine cabinet could be helpful or even necessary. 
  • Household disaster - Would I rather run to the store (with kids in tow, of course) at 11:00 pm when I'm running a fever or one of my kids?  Neither, of course!  I'd much rather have an arsenal of basic, common medications in my medicine cabinet at home.
  • Limited mobility - Here in the US, the weather doesn't always cooperate with our plans.  From tornadoes on New Year's Eve to massive snowfall over much of the nation, many of us have experienced weather related disasters already this year.  Do you have what you need if you are unable to safely leave your home for a few days?
  • Transportation and distribution delays - Many natural and man-made disasters can delay the transportation infrastructure that assures that the products you need are on the store shelves when you are ready to purchase.  But the truth is retailers and pharmacies stock only a few days worth of many drugs.  On a small scale (They are out of your favorite brand of pain reliever until tomorrow.) or on a large scale (All shipments to your region are delayed for a week by the big storm.) transportation delays can certainly frustrate us at the store.
  • Manufacturing delay - FDA regulation compliance and availability of raw materials often reduce and delay production of prescription products, over the counter (OTC) medications, and other medical products.  If prolonged, these delays could leave you without necessary medications and products for weeks or months.
  • Contamination scare - I'm not suggesting you gamble with your life, but most contaminated products are discovered quickly and are recalled by lot numbers.  Having purchased your favorite products months before may allow you to safely and confidently use them.  (Follow recommended procedures for product usage or disposal during a product recall.)
Here's what I've begun to do.  I've simply purchased one extra package of each medication (or products) that we use routinely at my house.  (Or that I'd need in a pinch - anti-diarrheal, cough medicine, large bandages and tape.)  I check the date before buying. Many medications are good for well over a year.  I ask my self, "Will I likely use this before it expires?  Is this enough to treat, say, two family members for a week or so?"  I already keep an extra month of all my family's prescription medications.  I store all these products safely away from the kids' reach, in the cool and dry closet in my bedroom, stowed in a clear plastic bin.  I check them every six months (March and September) to rotate products that will expire.  (If you're not going to use it... Some community organizations will accept unopened OTC products before they expire to help disadvantaged families.)  I expand this collection one package and one trip to the store at a time.

Like every other suggest on this blog, I urge you to consider three points when applying this in your home. 
1) Do something. 
2) Make it your own.  Address your concerns and fears.  Keep what you need on hand. 
3) Start small and build it up.  I've redesigned many projects once they were begun.  Unless you are certain of your end result, let your needs and ideas guide the project to it's useful completion.

Functional Friday: Go-Bag Part III - The Bag

Like any project you see on Everyday Providence, a go-bag will never get done unless you start it.  Preparedness is a process.  Start something.  You can improve it later!

Now, go get a bag.  (One per person, please.)  A plastic or paper bag will not work.  It needs to close completely with a tie or zipper and should be at least big enough to hold a change of clothes, some snacks, and personal items.  I use backpacks.  Duffel bags work fine.  A piece of luggage will suffice.  That tote bag that you got from the National Association of Something at last year's conference and trade show will work too.  Don't pick something that's too big or cumbersome to carry for a short walk.  When I start a new preparedness project I prefer to use things I have around the house - less investment, less commitment, more room to tweak later.  You may prefer, however, to run to the store and buy a shiny new go-bag.  Go for it!

When you've got a bag, you're ready for next week's Functional Friday post. We'll fill it with the things you need.

This Series' Links
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Need
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Purpose
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Bag
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Basic Stuff

Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - What's Next?