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Cooking Food when the Power Goes Out in the Winter

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According to the 2019-2020 Winter Reliability Assessment conducted by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, despite ample availability of Planning Reserve Margins extreme weather conditions and loads can cause outages. Some of the factors behind winter power-cuts may include generator schedule maintenance, forced outages, faulty generation resource performance or constrained fuel supplies. In other words, no matter how robust your electric supplier is, it is nearly impossible to escape the winter blackouts without divine intervention.

In 2019, between September and November, at least two large-scale blackouts in North America affected nearly 2,000,000 people. Scary! Prevention is better than cure, and, you would need enough protein in your body to fight the winter bugbear. Therefore, your winter survival master plan must have a chapter dedicated to Cooking without Electricity. Worry not – I am not going to talk about some Man vs, Wild extreme level survival mumbo-jumbo. I will share some simple ideas about the sound use of resources and knowledge of everyday appliances that will make your winter days a bit easier.

Portable Butane Gas Stove – Camping or outdoor picnics under the stars is a big part of my social life. So, for me, a butane gas stove makes it to the top of the list. If you rely on electric stovetops or hobs, make sure you get yourself one of these before winter. The best thing about these mini stoves is that you can use it inside the house with a CRV (Countersink Release Vent) Safety Cap. Butane gas stoves are best for an emergency, fast-paced cooking, and, for a small stove, they generate a lot of heat. You can cook at least ten decent meals on it before the fuel runs out.

1 Burner Gas stove with Propane Tank or Gas Bottles – You would not want to end up with a stove that is for outdoor use only. After all, this is something you are looking to add to your winter survival kit. Before purchase, make sure your gas stove is fit for inside-the-house use.

I prefer the 1 Burner Gas stove that comes with four gas bottles which can be seamlessly fitted to the stove. Easy-peasy! Get a device with an automatic safety shut off. I like the ones with the built-in piezo lighters.

Portable Cylinders and Folding Stoves – If you live in a fairly blackout prone area, you might want to consider buying a portable cylinder with Butane, Propane and LPG gas mixtures. Check the safety valve before installing it. And, also look for dampers underneath your gas stove to avoid fuel waste.

Though propane has a better affinity to colder climates, it is most suitable for exterior storage and use. For interior use, it is wise to use Butane instead of Propane. Or, you might want to use a combination of two devices as I do. 

Folding Camp Stove with Canned Fuel – You must have seen those small burners in a buffet section yeah? These are called the folding camp stove, and I stack them for winter use with my portable cylinders and single burners. These stainless-steel small fire-breathers are great for heating pre-cooked meals. They come attached to canned fuel, duh, and are easily replaceable.

Last year, on a powerless day (second day running since the lights went off), I cooked in advance some quick meals on my portable cylinder stove under a pale sun in the morning. I relied on my folding camp stove to heat them up later and avoid going out in the cold every time I had hunger pangs.

Bobcat cooking systems: This is another great alternative for cooking inside the house. I have not used it, but many have recommended this tool. It uses cans of thermal fuel and the best part is it does not generate toxic fuels. It can burn up to four hours and can easily produce at least 6 emergency meals. 

*There are many varieties of grills (charcoal and propane) that may work as substitutes for electricity-based cooking hobs. However, I deliberately did not include them because these are meant for outside use only and, winter is not the best time to enjoy outdoor activities. 

Still, if you are comfortable with a grill, get one with a side burner that can be connected to a propane tank. You can keep it in your garage for easy deployment. 

Now, you might want to look into some healthy meal options during a winter outage, in case you have a growling tummy and your gas stove plays truant.

 Tacos – Power cuts in the winter do not necessarily mean settling in for bland food. You can try out a taco wrap with canned products. I like to mix my stuffing for the wrap with canned tomatoes, tuna, beans, and corn with a dash of lime juice, salt, honey, and Dijon mustard. Even without a taco, you can prepare the meal as a salad and have it with pita bread. 

Raw food – I am not a sucker for thinly sliced raw steaks that have never seen a source of heat. If you are like me, and raw meat is not an option, you can still get your nutrients from raw fruits, veggies, nuts and dry fruits. Almonds and cashews pack in a good dose of protein. You may also want to try out water-poached eggs, as opposed to hard-boiled eggs which take time to cook. 

Granola bowls and cereals or oatmeal – Since we are talking about winter survival during an outage, we must stack our shelves with granola, muesli, or oatmeal. I like to add fruit slices to my granola bowl or oatmeal. And, one more important ingredient is powdered milk, since bottled milk would go stale if not refrigerated.

Bread, butter, and jam – Not a particularly healthy option, but during an emergency, nothing beats a good old buttered loaf and jam. If the fridge is not working, this is a safe option. Moreover, you can make yourself and your family a sandwich by adding lettuce, canned beans or corns, or tuna if you like, and settle in.

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7 Ways to Survive an EMP Attack

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An electromagnetic pulse, or “EMP” for short, is a sudden burst of energy that overloads the fragile components within an electrical system, causing them all to short out. It causes actual hardware damage resulting in the failure of any unprotected electrical devices. Typically EMPs are generated by technically advanced devices such as nuclear weapons. 

The least realistic but most dangerous scenario that can take place is that someone detonates many EMPs over a nation, or crazier, the whole world and renders all the technology and electric grids everywhere useless. If this happens, you should know how to prepare for it to ensure your survival during this unprecedented attack.

Lighting 

Candles are the obvious choice in any scenario like this. We have them handy; they are cheap and readily available everywhere in quantity. The only few negative things one might mention are the strength of light the candles can provide, how unstable they can be depending on which type of candle you use, or how the wind can blow them out anytime. 

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If candles just don’t cut it for you, let me introduce you to an alternative. Oil lamps; works under any condition. No weather or atmosphere is strong enough to keep an oil lamp down.

Faraday Cage

A Faraday cage, named after its inventor, Michael Faraday, is a device or structure made and used to protect the cage’s contents from electrical impulses. It’s an excellent option for security, and easy to make. Nevertheless, an old microwave or a metal cage, i.e., a safe, can be as good.

The Faraday cage may do well against an EMP attack, but we can’t be too sure. We cannot foresee the impact of the electromagnetic pulse or the level of damage it might cause, so it is pretty much impossible to predict if the cage would protect the devices or not.

Communication Devices

Communications would be an arduous task after almost everything is rendered useless because of the EMP attack. It is always good to have many backup options to communicate with those important to you if a situation like this ever strikes. Devices such as a two-way radio, CB radio, or long-range walkie-talkie can be handy. If you find any of these devices in good shape after an EMP attack, put in some batteries and see if it works as there’s a high likelihood it will.

Communication is one of the more essential tasks after any disaster, and it is the very thing that you’d probably overlook. 

Backup Electricity

The primary issue after the attack is the question of electricity and how to source it if the grid becomes empty. Well, one option is to make electricity from solar panels by installing the panels around your home. Another is to set up wind turbine generators and produce electricity. 

Luckily, there are many backup electricity options, but they require preparation and hard work.

Defense

Any type of gun, be it shotgun or rifle, is useful for defending yourself. You can use these weapons to protect yourself and hunt animals, and depending on your preferences, for game. Another resourceful thing to do if you want alarm systems around your house would be to hang bells on the inside of your doors. Even if they seem like nothing, they are very consistent and can make you aware of intruders if they try to sneak in. Try to do this for every entry point in your house so you and your family can rest assured of your safety.

Sourcing Food

Sourcing food will be another significant problem if the restoration of power takes months or even years. Therefore you should know how to grow your food and manage your livestock. Books on farming and breeding livestock will help enormously with this, and there are countless out there.

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Be Ready, So You Don’t Have To Get Ready

Many preppers already know how to live off the grid because they have started living that life to be ready if and when the time comes. All of this will eventually prepare you to survive an EMP attack if you go off the grid entirely and learn not to rely on anything that works with electricity.

Keeping a stock of first aid kits and bare medical essentials is also a requirement if anyone needs medical attention. The EMP attack is often called the ultimate doomsday attack that will eventually happen.

You can always do things on an individual level to help protect you and your loved ones better. The practices and ways that we discussed above are known by much of the preppers community, so if you’re new to being a prepper, now you know how to survive an EMP stack.

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What to Do When You Can’t Afford Food

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The times are tough, and as the pandemic continues to affect us all in many different ways, this article feels like a necessity to show all the other options out there you can opt for to make your life that extra bit more worth living.

Families are struggling, and on the top of the list of struggles comes the challenge of buying food. This is a growing problem, and it seems that the end is not in sight. If you cannot cope and cannot afford even the essential food items, there may be some other options that can help you out.

Ask

Sometimes, the easiest thing can be the most challenging thing to do. Asking for food is the hardest decision that someone can take. Nevertheless, you can always ask restaurants, grocery stores or markets and many such places. While asking, also make them understand your situation very clearly and explain that the circumstances are challenging for you. Some organizations go from restaurant to restaurant and take leftover food from there and distribute it later to people who don’t have money or are homeless in dire need.

Basic budget

Mapping out your budget is the first thing you should do. List all of your living requirements on paper or digitally, and start with food. Only think about the things that you genuinely need to live and budget accordingly. Once you have a budget set, make it your duty to never go outside of this budget.

SNAP benefits

This is primarily a USA program, but you can find similar programs for your country. SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that helps people get benefits based on their state and income. People will apply to this for many reasons and can be eligible for many reasons, so don’t take it from here but go directly to the Government website and get more information. Suppose you can apply and get approved. You will get a notification with all the information and details, including the period you will continue to receive those benefits. 

WIC

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Another program is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Congress is the one who controls this, and it gets funded through individual states. 

There is a list of criteria that you must meet if you want to qualify for WIC. The requirements include categorical, residential, income and nutritional risk. 

Free lunches

There are many programs specifically made to help people who cannot afford food in their houses. Free lunch summer programs, soup kitchens, or 24/7 kitchens that stay open solely for people to get food are some of the most important options that you can take advantage of. You need to be aware of these programs as they are placed there specifically to help you. 

Food banks

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If, by chance, you do not meet the eligibility criteria for any program, the above solutions will come to your aid. Another organization that helps is local food pantries. They are charitable and not for profit organizations that give away food to people without money or with very little and still cannot afford to buy the absolute necessities. A statistic to put things in perspective, food banks in the UK are helping up to a million people not starve, and the number in the United States of America is probably even higher. 

No matter how you may feel about going to food banks and asking for help, be reassured of your health and safety. 

Coupon expert

Become an expert coupon collector! These are your best friends during trying times. Stores give you coupons, and there are apps on the play store that have coupons for many stores in your neighbourhood. Vouchers can also give you advantages like buying in bulk at low prices or having discounted items that will expire in a week or so. 

NGOs

There are many not for profit governmental organizations that have a scheduled time and place where they distribute food. Going there and having your lunch or dinner is always a good option. 

Apart from NGOs, there are churches, mosques, gurudwaras and various other temples, depending on where you live, which will offer you free food and other benefits if you go to them and ask for help. 

Dumpster diving

As weird as it sounds, dumpster diving is a legitimate thing that people engage in. Dumpster diving is basically what it says. Dive into a dumpster and find sealed packets of food that many restaurants and hotels often throw out, or even grocery shops. These products are usually thrown out because they seem or look bad or are past their sell-by date. 

Nevertheless, however harmful this option may seem, you are doing what you need to do because you need the nutrition and the strength to get through the hardships you are facing right now. 

Stock on pantry items

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If you have even a little money, you can stock up on ramen noodles, crackers, flour, beans and rice. Such items go a long way in feeding you and keeping change in your pocket. These items can also be kept for a long time, so there are no chances of them going off anytime soon, and you can ration them out with no problem at all. 

Social services

Another measure that you can take is contacting social services or their offices, letting them know of your predicament, and asking for their help. They will usually give you food assistance by giving you an EBT card which works like a debit card and is primarily for buying groceries and related items.

Getting a job

Getting a job is the most challenging solution, but if you can make it happen, it will not just solve your food problems but also your living. Even if you get little money from your job, there’s always some food worth eating that you can buy from loose change.

Many people have to decide between giving up food and giving up on other basic needs, and sadly, they believe that giving up food is the way to go. One might think they can live without food but cannot live without shelter. You shouldn’t have to decide between either.

The above solutions are just some suggestions to help make your life a little easier if you ever have a food issue.

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Setting up Your Survival Backpack: What and Why?

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A survival backpack or survival kit is a kit that contains every necessity that you may need in the event of an emergency to survive for an indefinite period until everything gets better again. 

Survival backpacks need to be durable to withstand the four elements, i.e., rain, water, fire, and earth. You should also be comfortable strapping it on yourself and trudging through the wilderness. It should be compatible with your body size. 

You are now coming to what you should include in your survival backpack and why.

Water 

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Water is an essential survival element, without which you would not last more than a couple of days. What you should put in your backpack are two things, a water container, and a water purifier. 

While finding a natural source of water like a river or a lake, you should also keep in mind that water will most definitely be contaminated with all kinds of viruses and bacteria. The first thing to do would be to treat it with either purification tablets or use a water filter. Whichever is handier and more comfortable to get. After that, you can pour the now purified water and put it in the water container or bottle you brought along.

Shelter

Come nightfall, you will need a place to rest and boost your energy. As much as you may like fantasizing about sleeping under the stars with nothing but the grass beneath you, it is a little impractical. This is precisely why you should carry items such as a space blanket, which helps you keep warm. The next solution is a sleeping bag. A sleeping bag will also keep you warm and comfortable throughout the night without any issues. 

You can also go ahead and use a tent. When choosing a tent, you should keep in mind that it should be lightweight, waterproof, and spacious enough to accommodate you and your friends.

Food

You should pack ready-to-eat meals and packages that are easy to take care of and lightweight not to affect the backpack’s weight. Canned meats, soups, canned fruits and vegetables, and more canned stuff are excellent options. Ready-to-eat canned meals are also available. Pack many energy bars, granola bars, and candy bars because they are high in nutrients, especially calories and carbs.

A fishing kit might also be a good idea if you want to carry one. It is an easy way to get fresh food whenever you might want to ration out your meals. All you need for the kit is some bait, line, and hook, after which you can tie the line and hook to any decent-sized stick you may find.

Cooking Utensils

While talking about food, you should also have the necessary utensils to prepare it. A regular cooking kit contains one small pot, a cup, two to three metal plates, and some fork and spoons. In almost all the methods, cooking food requires heat, for which you need a stove and, give or take two to three fuel canisters. 

A fire starter is also needed as it helps build the fire for cooking while also providing heat. Bring along matches and a lighter in case the matchsticks do not work. Do not forget to keep the matchsticks and the lighter in a waterproof container or a waterproof package.

Clothing

Clothing takes a vital place next in your survival backpack because you never know what weather you may face. Some suggested clothes include two pairs of underwear, woolen socks, thermal wear, extra shirts, a rain jacket or fleece jacket, or preferably both, and hiking boots.

First Aid Kit

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First aid kits are another must-have for your backpack. They can be used to treat injuries in an emergency. It should include items like bandages, tourniquets, scissors, antiseptic wipes, a roll of gauze, aspirin, sutures and needles, antibiotics, and allergy medicines.

Knife

A knife is both a useful tool and a good option as a self-defense weapon. It has many uses and should be added to your backpack. It has various usages, from cutting bandages to opening cans to prepare food and so on. 

Shovel

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A small shovel makes all the difference in the world. You can use it to dig holes or dig trenches, even a fire pit. It comes in the handiest when you are attempting to build a shelter. 

Saw

Another great tool that should be kept considered is a small saw. A saw will make the cutting branches and gathering wood that much more comfortable and less time-consuming. For example, sawing wood logs to build a campfire or sawing long branches from a tree to help in making a base for the shelter.

Tape and Cord

Duct tape is an excellent addition to your backpack. It is the ideal go-to for any repair because it is waterproof and durable. You can use it instantly to temporarily fix your clothes, your tent, or any other materials that need repairing. 

A cord is a rope that is used to tie anything together. You can use it to connect your wood or tie together a tent making it a temporary shelter. It can also be used to hang washed clothes on; you just need to find two suitable trees and stretch and tie the cord from those two trees. 

Personal Items

Last but not least, the things that you should carry in your backpack are:

  • Identification documents
  • Money
  • Phone and charger
  • Self-defense items (might include pepper sprays and stun guns)

Identification documents include your passport, identification papers, driving license, contracts, cards, and so on. 

One may never know what lies ahead, no matter how hard you try to be prepared for anything and everything that comes your way. But the above list details all the essential things that you should have in your survival backpack or kit, and it is always handy to make a list yourself and check the items off one by one as you put them in.

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