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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Budget Your Budget

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

I've mentioned that I have a new-to-me car and with that comes the increased expenses of a newer vehicle. Since I can't easily increase my income, I have to decrease my "outgo". Several of my expenses are fixed (or almost), but there are ways I can reduce even those. What I'm looking at is the answer to the eternal question, "What Can I Quickly Change?"

Rent, utilities and insurance are fixed expenses and at the top of my list. They can be changed, just not in the short term and I need to save money immediately. The easiest place for me to start is with food.

This is a topic that can be very touchy to some people, especially if they have a family history of food shortages/rationing or malnutrition/starvation,or if they prep with other people who share the same food supply. I am fortunate in that I have never been that hungry, but there have been times I could easily see the back of my pantry. I've been pretty good at budgeting, but I think there is still room for improvement.

As it turns out, there is a lot of room for improvement, starting with how I shop.

I Will Stop:
  • Buying microwave dinnersThese seem like an easy way to have a hot meal in a short time, but are generally as expensive per-pound as steak, along with a serious overload of salt and additives.
  • Using vending machines. I have been guilty of needing (okay, wanting) a soda and paying $1.50 for a drink that, if purchased at the supermarket, costs $4 for a six-pack. This is also a poor way to have a candy bar or other snack items.
  • Eating fast food lunches. There are Snack Shacks at or near most of the places I call upon. While the food is prepared with fresher ingredients than at most fast-food places, it is still   expensive; fFor example, a bagel with cream cheese and a large coffee is most of $5 and a Super Burrito or BLT is $7.50. 
  • Eating dinners out. I'm not eliminating every dinner out. I just plan to eat out much, much less and to take advantage of bargains when I do. 
  • Shopping 'trendy'. I've never been a Whole Foods nut, but I have shopped there in the past. No longer! Grocery Outlet and the various dollar stores are my first stops now, with the big chains only for those items not found elsewhere.
  • Drinking fancy coffees. I am as guilty as most for running out to $tarbuck$ for overpriced coffee or other drinks in the morning with coworkers. If I do go with friends, I will buy plain coffee to reduce sticker shock.
  • Deli case shopping. This isn't quite as bad as frozen or microwave meals, but it's close, both in price and in non-essential additives.

I Will Start:
  • Planning meals for several days at a time. This involves shopping for those ingredients weekly and not stopping every day to buy what's needed.
  • Taking water to work, and I will buy it by the case at the warehouse store. If I do buy soda, it will also be purchased by the case; the per-can price is much cheaper than the machine.
  • Making my own lunch. The ingredients are cheaper.
  • Using coupons or a discount service like Groupon when I go out for dinner. Several of the local sports bars have good, relatively cheap food with the expectation that they will make up the difference in booze. Since I don't drink much, I end up saving money. 
  • Buying in bulk. This includes the things that make sense to have in big packs, like paper towels and toilet paper. Food items are a bit harder for me to buy in bulk, because I'm buying only for myself, and bags of oranges and potatoes from the grocery store sometimes don't get used before going bad. However, meat in bigger packs gets divided into bags and dropped into the freezer.
  • Looking in the marked-down section of the meat counter. This is a great place to hunt up ingredients for my next dinner; I've found roasts that turned into stew, chili and burrito filling there, along with steaks. Later in the evening can be a good time to find rotisserie chickens being marked down. 
  • Using my rice or pasta as a base for more of my meals instead of donating extra to the food bank. Chicken, beef and different spices, or sauces over rice or macaroni, make for good, nutritious and filling meals.             

Other Ways to Save:
  • Look at your car insurance for a way to save some money. Shop for a cheaper policy and check into raising your deductible. The difference between a $500 and $1000 deductible can be huge! 
  • Get a cheaper cell phone plan or turn off some of the extra features that have a per-month charge. Do you really need to have unlimited texts, or is a fixed number better? What about your data use - can you get by with a cheaper plan? Most cell providers are offering unlimited data (with restrictions, naturally!), so that can be another way to save some serious money too.

The Takeaway
  • There are ways to trim a budget if you know where to look. I haven't looked at mine as closely as I should have until now. Wish me luck! 
  • If you have a novel way to save money, leave a comment! I need all the help I can get in paying for my new car.

If you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!
If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

AR-15 Basics: Lightweight AR

This week,we look  at the lightweight AR in detail and discuss and how to put your rifle on a diet.



Lokidude

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #140 - Going to NRAAM 2017

There's no yellow brick road, but be sure to follow the GBVC cast at NRAAM!
  • Beth is still going to NRAAM... but the USCCA is not. Beth tells us how the NRA dis-invited them.
  • Some relationships are fiery; this one ends in arson. Who lit the fire? Sean takes a look.
  • Barron is on assignment this week.
  • Discretion is the better part of valor, and so Miguel reminds you to pick your fights lest you get in over your head.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about concealed carry handguns as Personal Protective Equipment.
  • Tiffany is on assignment this week.
  • Friend of the show Sarah Cade asked Erin, "How do you find your family members in an emergency?" Erin has some ideas.
  • For some reason, family members seem to get upset when their criminal spawn get shot! Weer'd brings us the grandfather of one of the home invaders killed in Oklahoma.
  • And our plug of the week is NRAAM 2017. Follow us on Instagram!
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
 Finding Lost Family Members
in an Emergency
This week’s topic comes to us courtesy of friend of the podcast Sarah Cade, who asked for advice on how to find family members in an emergency. And that’s a great question! However, it’s very tough to answer because in an emergency, the best way to contact family members - cell phones and the internet - may be down, or so overloaded with traffic that no signal can get through. However, there are some tips and tricks I can pass along to make finding a lost family member easier.

Now the first thing to keep in mind is that during a disaster, texts are far more likely to get through than voice cails, because texts require far less data. So ensure that family members have a phone that can send and receive texts! At this point I think even the dumbest flip phone can text so this shouldn’t be a problem.

Next, make sure that your family members have a way to keep that phone charged! There are a variety of ways to do this, with the simplest to make sure that each phone has a charging cable and both a wall and car adapter. A portable battery to charge the phone when they can’t get to an outlet is also a good idea. I recommend the Anker Astro E1, which is literally the size of a candy bar and can fully charge an iPhone 7 twice, and only costs $17 from Amazon.

Another good way to keep your cell phones operational is with a hand crank dynamo. I like the ones that are also flashlights and AM, FM, and Weather Band radios because that’s a lot of utility in one package. The iRonshow Emergency Dynamo costs only $17.99 and belongs in every prepper’s bag.

But even if the cell network is completely down, a cell phone can still be useful in locating your loved one. Make sure that you have a picture of each of them on your phone - if you have the time, take a picture of them right before you evacuate so you also have a visual record of what they were wearing - and so if you get separated from them, you can show people their picture on your phone while asking “Have you seen this person?” rather than trying to describe them.

Now back in episode 9, I recommended that people scan their critical documents - drivers’ licenses, passports, vaccination records, etc - and keep them in a thumb drive. This is still a good idea! In fact, you should have other family member’s information on this drive as well, because if you can make it a FEMA shelter, the government or the Red Cross might be able to help you find out where your family is, and having copies of their documents can’t hurt in trying to locate them.

Of course, you don’t want all that personal information hanging loose on a thumb drive, so I suggest encrypting it. I’m sure Barron will jump in next week if I get it wrong, but I’ve found that a great tool is an on-the-fly encryption tool like VeraCrypt which creates a virtual encrypted disk on your thumb drive. So long as you remember the password, you can open the encrypted files easily, but it will take others a long time to break through it!

ProTip: since you need to actually run the program to decrypt your data, install a copy of it on your thumb drive as well.

Finally, the best way to find your family members in an emergency is simply not to lose them in the first place. Pre-plan rendezvous spots if you ever get separated in an emergency. For example, my family uses the acronym ACE: if we get separated, or we cannot reach our house due to a disaster like a fire, our rendezvous spots are, in order: the Airport, our Church, and the local Epic Theater.

If you have to evacuate in multiple vehicles, make sure that every single one of them has a detailed atlas for every state you may have to travel through, and designate meet-up spots in case you get separated. This may be as simple as "the first rest stop across the state line" or as complex as a street address. Write these locations inside the cover of the atlas so they won't get lost.

And yes, I said locations, plural -- on a long journey you need more than one. General rule of thumb for military convoys is a rally point every 20 miles or so, but you don't need to go that route; something simple like "every Chevron station at an interstate exit" or "every highway exit that ends in 5" will suffice for most purposes.

So there you go, Sarah; I hope you found this helpful. And if you or any of our other listeners think of something I missed, go to Gunblogvarietycast.com, click on the Contact Us tab, scroll down to Erin, and leave me your idea in the comment box. Don’t forget to click on “More ponies” before you hit submit!

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Reasonably Priced Everyday Prepper Vehicle

Everyone say hello to the newest Blue Collar Prepping contributor, The Discerning Shootist! 

TDS has done several videos for us, including a guest video during during our "Perfect Prepper Vehicle" theme week. I figured I ought to give him a byline, since he was kind enough to mention the blog in his videos. 

-- Erin the Editrix

This week I did a video about an affordable and everyday prepper vehicle instead of a perfect fantasy. I plan to make a series of videos featuring this car and how I affordably modified it for everyday use as well as disaster/bug out readiness.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Division

Scrolling through my facebook feed the other day, I saw a post/picture that stated something along the lines of “Not once in the last eight years (meaning the time before our current President) did I have to wake up fearing that WW3 was going to start today”. My initial response was, “You're welcome. Those of us who served during the Cold War managed to remove that threat for a little while”. Before I hit the enter button, I stopped and thought about the young person who had shared this bit of tripe. I erased my comment and let her post go unanswered because she wouldn't have allowed anything contrary on her page. This is a problem on several levels that needs to be explored.


Political Divide
The gulf between the dominant parties in American politics is getting wider. Civility is rare whenever politics get brought up (one of the reasons we don't cover politics on this blog) and I'm starting to see an increase in the dehumanization of those who disagree with either side. This is not a good way to run a country, having people inciting hatred for anyone who doesn't agree with a certain political opinion. When we have black-clad idiots facing off with skinheads (and the police standing by doing nothing), we have a recipe for a riot. I'm old enough to recall the last major riots we had in this country and it was not a pretty situation.

Politicians get changed, we have this cycle of elections that makes sure of that, but nobody is being taught how to get through the periods where their guys aren't in power. Instant gratification and lack of long-term thinking are pushing people away from each other in alarming ways.

This is one of the reason I'm a prepper- so I can identify and avoid situations that have a strong potential of boiling over into a riot. I'm too old to get involved in fist fights in the streets, I never really enjoyed the few from my younger days.

History is a Lost Cause
For some reason, the two generations that were raised since the end of the Cold War were not taught basic world history. I saw this begin in the 1970s, but it is much worse now. The pause in global conflict from 1989 until now is just that, a pause. War has been the default setting for mankind since the beginning of recorded history. Just because the USA managed to outspend the USSR on war preparations, or at least cause them to bankrupt themselves trying to keep up with us, doesn't mean that war will never happen again. The blame lies with the schools and the idiots in charge of them that replaced history with “social studies” or whatever they're calling it this week. The history of our own country and those most likely to be in conflict with us should be more important than learning about the dress code of an island tribe in the Pacific Ocean.

Another reason I choose to prepare for disasters, some of them are man-made. This issue is why I have old books set aside. Any history book written in the last decade or so (which is as old as most schools are allowed to keep) is to be read through carefully, looking for what they left out.

Evil Exists; Deal With It.
Since the 1960s, there has been a push to rewrite human history in shades of gray. There is no black and white any more, no good or evil. Everyone and everything is more or less the same shade of gray when you look at everything about them, according to those who want to excuse evil acts. The impetus for excusing evil is to be able to conduct even more evil in the future. The belief that all peoples and cultures are equal disregards the teachings of history, and common sense should be enough to show that such beliefs are false.

Religion is a part of this problem. I make no distinctions between sects or even entire beliefs, I'm seeing every religion being watered down and made “palatable”. Very few churches are willing to teach that evil exists, they're much too busy extorting money so they can build another wing on the building or hire another “preacher”. The “heathen” or pagan religions are not exempt from this, I've met several “pagans” that know nothing about what they claim to follow, but they love the tattoos and art work.

This is why I'm a spiritual prepper. My way of life is fading, being replaced by a foggy, washed-out searching for a utopia that can not and does not exist. Evil seems to be getting a foothold and I am doing what I can to fight back.

The Debate is Over
With the invention of facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. we have given up on actually communicating with each other. Anyone who voices a contrary opinion is now a sub-human monster whose words don't deserve to be shared. Most of the social media outlets are working on ways to censor “fake news” or at least anything that gets reported as fake news. That sounds like a great way to have a one-sided debate to me.

I have a lot of young friends, close to half of my Facebook friends list was under 30 years old when I added them. I've lost count of the number of times my comments have been deleted and how often I've been unfriended by nominal adults (they can vote and most can buy alcohol legally) just because I disagreed with something they posted. Most of the time it's something they copied from a political site, since very few of them know enough about history or politics to be able to form their own opinions. Someone they like said it, so it must be true and anything to the contrary is heresy. Movie stars and musicians that want to moonlight in politics have found it very easy to get time in front of cameras and microphones when they want to spout their version of “the truth”.

I do have two or three friends whose political views are drastically different than mine and they are intelligent enough to be able to debate those differences. We rarely change the others' minds, but we can talk in a civil manner and discuss the differences. This is becoming harder to do with every election cycle.

This is why I prepare for different kinds of disasters. A tornado will usually rip up a section of land a mile or so wide for a dozen miles or so. Car crashes don't normally involve more than two or three vehicles. Blizzards hit fast and last a week, with the roads and power being affected for days at most. In the aftermath of any of these, nobody is really going to care who I voted for in the last election if I can offer them aid. I'm not likely to turn down a warm place to sleep just because my friend voted for the “wrong” politician.


Unless I win the lottery and can buy that private island, I guess I'm going to have to find a way to deal with these issues. I'll keep trying to educate the ones who are willing to learn and I'll miss the ones who choose to remove me from their lives over something as petty as who gets to sit in the Oval Office.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Seasonal Gear Check

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

It has been raining and snowing at record levels in California, with parts of the Sierra Nevada mountains having a snow pack near 200% of normal! This has made Winter gear planning pretty easy: sweaters, rain gear, extra wool socks and the like.

Spring planning? Not so easy.

Spring Has Sprung
Things become a bit weird when we enter spring. Over the last three weeks it has been: sunny and 75°; raining and 50°; and clear and 35°! I've pretty much thrown my hands up and put a couple long sleeve t-shirts in a plastic bag in a corner of my trunk alongside the rain gear. 

Rain-X Latitude 
One thing on my car that has been getting a workout are the wiper blades. One of them cracked and the edge separated, and now it leaves a smear on the glass as it wipe. Do I really need to mention that it was the driver's side blade? 

I like the Rain-X brand; their Latitude blades seem to last as long as any other I've tried and are priced comparable to the other, 'better' quality national brands. I needed a set right away, so there was no time to order from Amazon and use the very handy Blue Collar Prepping link. While I was as the store, I also bought Rain-X Bug Remover washer fluid. (I don't need to buy the cold weather version, since I only have about 10-15 days below freezing or the frost point where I live.)

I can testify that the Rain-X fluid will treat your windshield so well that you can keep your wipers on the longest delay setting at night and have excellent vision in all but "fire hose" downpours.

Gear and Pantry Check
As I mentioned above, the gear in my Get Home Bag is as set as it's going to be until the rain actually stops. Which should be soon. (I hope.)

A notice popped up on my phone calendar to go over the Pantry checklist. It's a bit early for me to go all the way through my stores and my day-to-day pantry, but there were a couple things that were getting close to their sell-by* dates; the biggest was the instant oatmeal I have in my home stores. I like the Quaker Oats Variety pack that the warehouse clubs carry. I am a little disappointed that the packets are now loose in the big box, when previously they were more evenly divided by flavor and in smaller boxes which made putting them my prepping stores more convenient. However, all this is a minor irritant because I just place the individual packs into heavy duty zip lock bags instead of doing the same to the discontinued small boxes.

The only other item on my shelf that was even close to needing to go was 12 cans of chicken breast, also from Sam's Club. I like keeping chicken in my gear, since it is a nice change of pace from tuna, and at 13 oz. the can is easily shared with another person or mixed into pasta as an easy protein boost to the carbs.

The oatmeal is going onto my pantry shelf, since I take oatmeal with me every day. It's a nice and easy way to have something hot for my first break at 7 am. The chicken is going to the local food bank since I have cans on the kitchen shelf right now.

* I (and most of you) know that the sell-by date does not mean the food is spoiled or no longer safe to eat.

The Takeaway
  • Plan for your weather, no matter how silly your choices seem to others.
  • If you can't see the road, you are a hazard to everyone, not just yourself.
  • Rotate your food to keep things fresh and help out those around you.

The Recap 

    If you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!
    If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

    NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

    Tuesday, April 18, 2017

    The AR-15: an Introduction


    The AR-15 is an excellent rifle. If you can only have one gun, it is a great candidate due to its modular nature.

    I go over some of the basics of the AR-15 in this video. Setting the rifle up for specific needs will be the basis of future articles.



    Lokidude

    The Fine Print


    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

    Creative Commons License


    Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.