Cautions About Buying in Bulk

There are several great things about buying home storage in bulk. Usually the cost is lower and it is often more convenient to grab and store one bucket, bag, box or case. However, there is also a downside. When bulk items spoil, you usually lose a lot of product. It is also often more difficult to inspect bulk items adequately.

Last night I opened a case of mandarin oranges. I purchased them just a year ago at a case-lot sale. As I have organized and rotated my storage, it has been extremely convenient to deal with a box of mandarin orange cans rather than manage each can individually. The box, however, was sealed closed and I had not inspected the cans. I opened the box and fed each can into a rotating shelf. I was dismayed to find many dented cans and at least one that was leaking. The cans were all dusty and several were rusty at the bottom. I threw away multiple cans and was left with many questions about the others.

There is a lesson here for me. Obviously I'll need to be more aware in the future. My mandarin oranges are the most "unseeable" cans in cases. So, I'll likely open each box in the future and inspect the cans before I purchase them. My cases of canned vegetables are stacked and sealed with plastic, but I can see through the plastic. I definitely will look more closely. I will also look more closely for dings in cans, breaks in buckets and cracks in jars. Hopefully, in doing so, I'll have a more reliable storage and be able keep all the savings of buying in bulk.


Keeping Emergency Supplies Accessible

Here is another idea from my sister, Vickie:

"So this one can't be used by everyone, but for those who like to get out into nature on a regular basis.

A week ago my husband and I took the kids on a hike. Driving to our destination took us a little long, and then we couldn't find the trail head so our afternoon hike started much later than planned. The end result was that it was dark for the last 1/2 of our hike. We realized we could easily get lost if we didn't hurry and so we had to push it and didn't get to enjoy the hike that much. I also fell and was lucky I wasn't hurt or that could have been really bad.

We knew better than that and realized that flashlights should always be in backpacks for our hikes, but had been overlooked as we rushed to pack our hiking needs. Our new plan is to have the back-packs packed in advance. Each of the kids will have a backpack with a flashlight, emergency blanket, whistle, water bottle, and snacks. If I make sure they are stocked for our next hike before I put them away then all we'll have to do is grab the packs and go. This would also be what we would grab in a sudden emergency if we had to leave the house. Sure it wouldn't have everything, but it would be better than nothing.

I think that our neighbors did something like this as well. They went backpacking overnight and so they would essentially have their 72 hour kit packed in their back-packs (complete with sleeping bags, tents, and food) and then they would use it on their next camping trip. I obviously haven't mastered this one, but it's something I'm working on."


Location of Emergency Supplies

Another idea from my mom:

After watching the destruction in Haiti, a neighbor realized the importance of being able to access your supplies - even when you can't get into or stay in your home. She shared some of her ideas with my mom: "She said they have decided that they need to get a garbage can that they can seal completely and put blankets and coats, hats, and gloves inside in case there was a disaster in bad weather. Then, they are going to store this container in the shed in the back yard, thinking if (buildings) had fallen because of an earthquake, it would not be as hard to get in and access the garbage can."

My mom assessed her own 72-hour kit supplies and location and realized: "I just purchased new food to replace the food that has expired. (As I replaced it,) I realized that even though I have some supplies by the front door, it is not all in any type of container and it would take me too long to gather it all together."


Car Preparedness and Helping Others

This is a fantastic idea from my sister, Vickie:

"One of the things that was always difficult for me was the homeless people on the corner. I've never liked the idea of giving money, but still wanted to do something. I love it when I see someone after a trip to the grocery store because then I can pass out a box of cereal or some fruit. This was nice if the food was in the car, but what about the times when the food wasn't there.

"Well, my husband went on a business trip this summer. He was living in a hotel for a few days and purchased some soup to microwave. He ended up not eating all of it and then just left it in his car. Then the next time he saw a person asking for food/money on the side of the road, he gave them some soup. Ever since then we have kept a few cans of non-condensed soup with pop lids in the car. They can be eaten straight out of the can - hot or cold. This has served two purposes, obviously we can now be charitable to those in need. But it's also comforting to have some food in the car if there was ever an emergency. As you know, those pop-lid cans don't withstand extremes in temperature, etc. We see people in need often enough that I haven't had anything in my car too long."


Preparing to Help Others

Photo Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Family Services specialist Paul Garrett plays hand games with Haitian children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Part of relief efforts is to provide children with meaningful activities during times of disaster.

I'm going to be featuring several guest posts over the next while. They are a grab bag of ideas from my family members. We grew up in a home where my parents made having their food storage a priority. Preparedness is one of those righteous traditions that each child is now trying to perpetuate. I'm so thankful for my parent's goodness and example.

These thoughts are from my Mom:

"After watching all of the Haiti disasters and trials AND giving the Visiting Teaching message on self-reliance, I had a thought run through my mind. I got thinking about “work." I see all those (Haitian) people standing around and know that sometimes things are getting tense there – and they would be with me if I was starving. But (even) after they have received food and water, many are still just waiting. My thought is how much better they would feel, how much stress could be released, and tensions eased if they had something to do to contribute to making things better. I know that they are in need of big trucks and equipment, but is there not something they could be doing – removing the smaller pieces of cement, helping to clear the roads, digging down to restore the water, etc.?

"I suspect that there are many who are doing works of service – but my most important question is for us. We have our 72-hour kits. If we are able to get them and all of our family members to a place of safety – then what would be our plan? Would we be just sitting and waiting for someone to call out the next move? Is it possible that we need to have some plans in place – besides those of ward, city, stake, etc. – that we can take action upon? Is it possible that we need to store some shovels, saws and other tools (not electric tools) near doors in our garage or house that we could (easily) get and go out and make a difference. I noticed in the Church News this morning an article about one of the church humanitarian agents who was playing games with the children so the children would not be wondering aimlessly. What is it that we individually could do to help even though we were a victim in a disaster?"


Two Weeks

Photo Credit: Marco Dormino (United Nations via Reuters)
A child awaits for the distribution of meals by the United Nations World Food Programme in a make-shift camp in Jacmel, Thursday, Jan. 28.

It's now been more than two weeks since the earthquake in Haiti. One thing I've noticed is that finally some of the water and supplies are getting through to help many (but still not all) of the displaced and injured people. You might assume that it took additional time to get supplies into Haiti because of a more rudimentary distribution situation. However, it is interesting to me that it also took up to two weeks (or more) for aid to get to many Katrina and Rita victims. In all three cases after two weeks there were still many who were not getting any help.

There is a lesson in this for our own preparation. It's a good idea to have at least two weeks of supplies including water, medical supplies, shelter, money, food and fuel (more would be even better). It takes time after emergencies, disasters, or economic crises for help to arrive.

In an emergency, I've always assumed that our family could just leave our area and stay with family if things were bad enough. Recently, though, I've realized that floods, earthquake scarps, pandemics, winter storms and panic all block roads. It is likely in many different scenarios that you will have to shelter-in-place and be ready to take care of yourself. Many emergency kits provide three or four days worth of supplies which just isn't enough to make it through those first two weeks during which you'll likely be without any help.

If you are just starting out, make gathering two-weeks worth of supplies your first priority. If you've been working on your home storage supply for a while, take time to inventory and make sure you have the supplies on hand to help you navigate through the first few weeks of any type of emergency. It would be even better to be prepared for a long haul with a three-month supply, a water supply, a financial reserve and some longer-term storage so that you can take care of your own family without relying on outside aid. Being well prepared will also put you in a position to better help others and allow those who are less prepared to utilize any aid available.