Food Storage Tags

You may remember this previous post, Labeling Long-Term Storage, from back in 2009 where Stephanie shared her idea of making tags to help with locating, rotating and replacing her food storage.  Well, I've had two-year intentions of doing the same thing, but have never gotten around to it.  Just this past Christmas, my wonderful parents-in-law gave me a new fun laminator and I've been itching to use it for this project since then. 

I made my tags using a different color of cardstock for each food storage product that I keep in buckets.  Actually there isn't much rhyme or reason to the colors.  I just used the colors that I had on hand.  In the picture below, you might notice that the brighter colors are easier to see and read so I would recommend that you use bright colors instead of dull or dark colors. 

I figured out how many tags of each that I needed.  For example, I knew that I wanted to always keep four buckets of flour on hand, so I used my word processor to print four "flour" labels.  I repeated this process for each of the items I keep in buckets: wheat, sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, rice, oats, and beans.  I laminated my tags for durability, but this isn't necessary.  Then I hole punched the side and tied each onto the bucket handles with some white yarn.  I made more than 40 tags.  It took about two hours from start to finish (but most of that time was spent doing second and third runs through my laminator in order to fully seal the tags - I'm sure you could do it in a fraction of that time).  I love the result!  It is so easy to figure out what is in each bucket now.

Recently I ran out of flour.  So I ran down into my storage area, grabbed a bucket of flour (which was so easy to find because of the easy-to-see tags) and emptied the previously-stored flour into my upstairs bucket.  I actually left the tag on the empty bucket and let it remind me that I needed to buy some more flour to replace the now-empty bucket.  I could also untie the tag and slip it into my purse or tie it to a shelf as a reminder that I need to replace that flour.  When I refilled the bucket with flour, I flipped the tag over and wrote 2011 on the back with a black permanent marker so that I would know the age of the newly purchased flour.

Here are a few other ideas and tips that you could use for labeling your food storage:

*Use different colored ribbons for each different food (i.e red for red wheat; black for black beans; pink for pinto beans; tan for oatmeal; white for rice; etc.).
*Use a different colors of  ribbon/yarn to indicate the purchase date.
*Use different colors of permanent markers to differentiate between foods and/or dates.
*Wrapping ribbon and index cards would work just fine.
*Magnetic labels could be used with #10 cans or steel shelves.
*Instead of tying a ribbon to foil pouches or #10 cans (that don't have a handle like a bucket or a neck like the PETE bottles), just tie a tag to the shelves or adhere a label with a small piece of ribbon directly to the product.
*Label two sides and the top of each container for more visibility.
*Use cup-holder screws to hang labels (of items needing to be replaced).
*These tags would be a great idea for a cheap, but love-filled gift.

I would love to hear your ideas!


Food Storage Hunt

Hannah and Abby over at Safely Gathered In are doing an ongoing series right now about how food storage bloggers organize their storage.  Last week they featured my storage area.  If you are interested in seeing how we organize our food storage, you can go to:  http://safelygatheredin.blogspot.com/2011/03/food-storage-hunt-iprepared.html.

They've also featured two other bloggers with promises of more to come.  Check it out.  You might find some ideas for your own storage.


Toilet Troubles (second of two parts)

Portaloos line the streets after the earthquake last September in Kaiapoi, New Zealand. (source unknown)

For sanitation in temporary emergency situations, a chemical (portable) toilet is the easiest to store and set up. Portable toilets are easy to store, but require disposal. If there won't be any entity helping with waste disposal, a longer-term solution of digging a latrine might be a better option.

Chemical Toilet
A chemical toilet is one that utilizes different chemicals to deal with the smells and disinfect your waste. Portaloos (portapotties), RV toilets, airplane toilets, and portable toilets work this way. You can turn an existing toilet into a chemical toilet by emptying the water and inserting a plastic bag inside the bowl. In it's simplest form, a bucket with a trash liner can also be used to create a chemical toilet. Two boards placed parallel to each other can create a more-comfortable, make-shift seat. 

After using the facilities, commercially-available chemical packets, or home-stored chemicals such as baking soda, lime, or bleach are added to the toilet bag to maintain sanitation. The American Red Cross recommends that you "pour or sprinkle a small amount of regular household disinfectant, such as creosol or chlorine bleach, into the container to reduce odors and germs."4

You can buy portable toilet kits which just include a bag and chemical packets. Other kits include the seat and/or stand. Some even "flush" into a lower chamber to reduce smell. The downside of a chemical toilet is that waste still needs to be disposed.

Many sites recommend disposing waste in an outdoor container until your local governments collect it. If you feel that a quick response is reasonable, then store an extra trash container with a tight fitting lid to be used for this short-term disposal. In a situation where collections might not be soon available, official emergency sources recommend that you "bury garbage and human waste to avoid the spread of disease by rats and insects. Dig a pit 2 to 3 feet deep and at least 50 feet downhill or away from any well, spring or water supply."5

Store: Bucket, lid/seat (or other configuration), garbage-can bags, chemicals.
Pros: Easy and readily available.
Cons: Waste still has to be disposed.

If you find yourself without toilet facilities for a longer period of time, you might consider digging a latrine (privy or outhouse). In reality, people have lived without sewer systems much longer than they have lived with them. It's not been so long since digging a hole for an outhouse was the norm.

The big concern in latrine construction is fresh water contamination. It is essential that toilet facilities be placed where they will not contaminate ground water, fresh water wells, or streams. 50 feet from homes or water sources is a widely cited distance for location of toilet waste. Some areas have high ground water and require that outhouse facilities be located elsewhere in order to protect drinking water.

An adequate hole for a privy would be about five feet deep (which gives you about five years worth of sanitation disposal depending upon use).6 Sources vary in their suggestions of depth from as little as four feet to as much as 15 feet (larger depths require reinforcing the walls to eliminate the risk of cave-in). After digging a hole, a board with a hole cut in the middle can be placed on top to cover the pit. Your privy would be usable at this point, but probably not comfortable. You can add an elevated box or a chair with a hole cut into the seat to make sitting more comfortable. A hollowed bucket with two boards on top would be better than nothing.

At this point, you would also need to address the smell. Whatever construction method you use, it is important to have a lid of some kind to close off the pit which would help to contain the smell. An outhouse can utilize a built-in vent pipe to reduce the build-up of methane gas and disperse the smell into the air. Flies are attracted to the smell and can cause the spread of disease. If you use a venting pipe, make sure to add a screen on top to reduce access to flies and other insects. Fly paper placed inside the facility would also reduce the flies somewhat.

Privacy is a huge issue with outdoor toilet use. There are pop-up tents available for this purpose. A regular tent or even a tarp could also be modified to give privacy. Because a latrine is located outside, weather considerations are important as you build your new facility. Tents and tarps will have to be anchored to ensure resistant to winds, rain and/or snow. If you have the resources to build a permanent wooden facility, weather would be less of a concern.

Store: Shovels, pick-ax, large piece of wood to cover the pit, bucket (or other seat), tent/tarp/wood for privacy.
Pros: Waste is disposed as part of the design. No need for additional chemicals.
Cons: Requires time to set up/dig, usually smelly, cold/hot and uncomfortable.

Make sure that you also store sanitizer, sanitary pads (dispose separately), and septic-safe toilet paper in addition to any other supplies for your toilet.

Click here to go to Toilet Troubles (part one).

1 - Christchurch earthquake: Survival in the suburbs
2 - Strangers brought together by quake stories
3 - Christchurch earthquake: Many face weeks of temporary toilets
4 - American Red Cross - Emergency Sanitation
5 - University of Florida - Emergency Sanitation
6 - How to build a latrine


Helping Each Other in Japan

Rescuers and victims carry out bags of food aid from a helicopter in Yamada, northern Japan on Tuesday. Takashi Ozaki / AP

Yesterday, Polliwog commented and shared a blog of a family housed on a US military base in Misawa, Japan.  On that blog (Acte Gratuit), Emily shares insights into her own food storage - and what she wishes she had stored.  She also describes how her church congregation is gathering supplies for those affected by the tsunami and earthquake. 

It's a fabulous example of  how preparedness enables you to reach out and help others!

Acte Gratuit:
Humanitarian Aid for Hachinohe
Surviving the Earthquake in Japan



A little girl stands in line with the rest of the people waiting for the second batch of water in Shiogama on Monday.  David Hogsholt for CNN

I am beyond sad about what is happening in Japan.  Our family has donated money through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Charities - Humanitarian Aid Fund and are constantly praying for everyone who has been affected. I feel helpless in many ways, but know that the power of prayer is real.  Many people have been motivated to start (or continue) their own preparedness efforts because of this recent devastation. This is good. Being prepared will truly bring you peace.

I just want to remind everyone about the importance of storing water and food.  This morning I read an article from the AP with information about the current lack of food and water:

"In many areas there is no running water, no power and four- to five-hour waits for gasoline. People are suppressing hunger with instant noodles or rice balls while dealing with the loss of loved ones and homes. "People are surviving on little food and water. Things are simply not coming," said Hajime Sato, a government official in Iwate prefecture, one of the three hardest hit.

. . . "I'm giving up hope," said Hajime Watanabe, 38, a construction industry worker, who was the first in line at a closed gas station in Sendai, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Soma. Just then, an emergency worker came over and told him that if the station opens at all, it would pump gasoline only to emergency teams and essential government workers. "I never imagined we would be in such a situation" Watanabe said. "I had a good life before. Now we have nothing. No gas, no electricity, no water."  He said he was surviving with his family on 60 half-liter bottles of water his wife had stored in case of emergencies like this. He walked two hours to find a convenience store that was open and waited in line to buy dried ramen noodles."1

I love that Hajime's wife anticipated an emergency and stored that water. What a blessing for their family!  The reality is that in many situations, especially those with vast consequences such as in Japan, the government is not going to be able to provide immediate resources for your family.  For example, it has been four days since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, yet many areas still don't have enough incoming supplies.1   In some cases there has been no contact with remote neighborhoods because of impassable roads.2   You might be on your own in a similar situation.  It's up to you to be prepared.

Those most affected by the tsunami have lost everything and many are turning to friends and relatives to help them.  This is another example where being prepared can make helping others easier.  Those with ample supplies are likely in a better position to reach out, clothe, feed, and help displaced family members and friends.  This is also a good reason to encourage your family and friends to get prepared.  You might be the one staying at their house in a similar circumstance. 

So, keep working on your preparedness; make getting water a priority; and pray for those in Japan.



Toilet Troubles (first of two parts)

A portaloo decorated by residents in the suburb of Sumner in Christchurch.
Photo / Getty Images

Yesterday I read an article by David Fisher in the New Zealand Herald describing declining conditions in Christchurch, New  Zealand suburbs after the 6.3 earthquake that hit that area almost two weeks ago.  The surprise?  The decline doesn't seem to result from a lack of food or shelter or even from untreated injuries or damage from the earthquake.  The cause?  A lack of toilets.

From the article:

Tears flowing down his cheeks, burly Canterbury mechanic Keith Mackie was trying to explain that life's basic necessities have been forgotten. . .  "We didn't complain. We just suck it in. After nine days we got a chemical toilet. I had to empty the chemical toilet this morning . . ."  The nearest Port-a-Loo - a decent walk away - was filled to overflowing.  Mr Mackie, retching, drove around trying to find another one into which he could empty his chemical toilet. Again and again, he found the same problem. "I've seen a lot in my life, but this takes the cake."

. . . St Heliers Cres resident Kevin Guy said the lack of toilets and housing threatened to send the disaster out of control. "People will die of this."  He said elderly residents in his street tried to go to the toilet outside in yesterday morning's rain.  "I live near a woman in her 70s who broke down crying, too embarrassed to go to the toilet in a bucket."

Another woman who would not be named said the focus on the central city had ignored thousands of people who were living in squalid conditions.  "The dead people are important but they don't need to go to the toilet. I do."1

Reports reference the planned distribution of 7,000 chemical toilets and more than 1200 portaloos.6  Prime Minister John Keys was quoted as saying, "I think pretty much every portaloo in Australasia is on its way."2   In the meantime, individuals have resorted to stealing portaloos and moving them from areas that they perceived as having plenty.  Kerre Woodham from the Daily Herald quipped that it was "The Battle of Portaloo."5

In the end, even with significant distribution of toilet facilities, there isn't enough (or enough upkeep) to meet the sanitation needs of the 300,000 people impacted by this earthquake.  Sewer lines have been severed and/or overwhelmed by liquefaction.  There is no short-term fix.  Lines are "still some way from repair".This is all made even worse by the lack of running water in more than 20% of the city.  Unfortunately in the meantime, overflowing toilets and the resulting lack of sanitation can ultimately lead to sickness and potentially death. 

Knowing how to address your own sanitation needs could be an essential skill for many different emergency situations.  Unfortunately, it isn't as simple as just digging a hole.  Stay tuned for the second part of this article where we'll address ways to plan to take care of your own waste and sanitation needs.

Click here to go to Toilet Troubles (part two).

1 - Christchurch earthquake:  A new living hell
2 - Key visits hard-hit eastern suburbs
3 - Quake to cost insurers up to $16b
4 - Christchurch earthquake: Latest updates
5 - The best of human nature
6 - Christchurch earthquake: Many face weeks of temporary toilets