Prepping, homesteading and living the simple, green, independent life.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Food and Water in Retirement

Now that we've covered finances and shelter that leaves food and water.

Yesterday I touched on new technology to provide energy, but when it comes to food and water we have to look to what past generations did before 24 hour supermarkets and on-demand tap water.

Naturally this means gardening, but it also includes things like canning and pickling, water conservation and even basic cooking skills.

My wife's 82 year old grandmother still pickles all her own stuff and my friend's elderly grandfather has the most productive garden in town.

Unfortunately the knowledge and skills involved in these activities have been lost over the last few generations; however with the internet, knowledge that our grandparents never had access to is easily and cheaply available.

One thing that I think everybody should be doing is gardening.  Almost anybody can plant a few veggies from the huge row garden to the apartment balcony planter boxes.  Ideally your garden should provide the majority of your food,  however if it only provides 10%, that's still less money out of your pocket.

The "Squarefoot Garden" method is popular among preppers for it's low-maintenance and high productivity. There's plenty of info on-line covering Squarefoot Gardening and I plan on adapting it to my tiny yard this summer (which I'll post pics of here).

Our Canadian winter's though make storing and preserving food very important. Canning and pickling is the traditional method but dehydration is getting very popular.  Check out Dehydrate2Store for great info on dehydrating.

Apart from growing and preserving your own food every prepper should be stocking at least a month's worth of food but the exact amount is up to you.  You should practice the "eat what you store, store what you eat" method where begin stockpiling the foods you already eat. 

Having familiar food during emergencies makes it easier if you have to depend on your supplies. Secondly, it creates a natural rotation of supplies and avoids unused expired food.

Lastly, you can actually save money by storing food in this way.  Since we're Canadians let's use our national comfort food as an example: Kraft Diner.

I don't know about you but I'm shocked by how expensive KD has gotten lately and I refuse to buy it when it's over $1. Because of this I buy multiple boxes whenever it goes on sale.  This way if the price goes back up I can wait because I've still got a dozen or so boxes at home.

If you do this for all your regular groceries you can save up to 30%!

Now this leaves us with water which depending on where you live is either a very simple solution or a rather difficult one.If you live in the country you simply need a well, but if you're in the city this isn't an option.

However, if you can't look down for your water, you can always look up: rain.

Every downspout on your roof should have a rain barrel.  You can buy the expensive factory made ones, or you can make one out of a plastic barrel or garbage can

My town has a by-law saying when you can and can't water your lawn so I love "sticking it to the man" by using my rainwater to water my lawn during "forbidden days".  In areas where your water use is metered, you'll also save money by using less water.

No matter where you live though you should practice water conservation to either lower your water bill, to preserve your septic system and/or lower the electricity by the well pump.  You can do this in a number of ways that I'm sure we're all familiar with: low flow toilets and showerheads, short showers instead of baths etc..

Well, I think I've touched on a lot of basics in this series of posts. Please leave any ideas or comments.

I don't know about you but I can't wait for retirement!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Home Energy Independence as Retirement Investment

Let's say you've paid of your debts and you've freed up some money. What should you invest it in?

Mutual funds, RRSPs, bonds, stocks?

All those things have some risk involved and the least risky investments have the poorest rates of return. Furthermore, when you invest in these you're handing money over to somebody else to manage it for you.

Financial planners, fund managers, the companies you hold stock in; in some way you become dependent on them.

I'm not knocking these types of investments.  For some people they may be an excellent choice. However, there is an alternative:

Invest in your own home's ability to provide for you now and in retirement.

I'm sure we're all familiar of the many ways to do this so I won't go into too much detail; but it basically comes down to either conserving energy or generating your own.

Fortunately the most inexpensive things you can do which give the quickest "return on investment" are simple energy efficiency and conservation things like installing compact fluorescent lightbulbs, turning down your thermostat and installing insulation.  On the more expensive side of this you can replace older appliances with more energy efficient ones.

The less energy you use, the less your utility bills will be, the less money you'll need in retirement. Makes sense, eh?

Once you've maxed out your energy efficiencies you're ready to begin investing in actually producing your own electricity.  Now instead of just reducing the money going out to utilities you'll be living for "free" and maybe even making some money;  "Green energy" actually can be an investment!

Many people think things like solar panels and wind generator are too expensive for the average person, but how many people do you know who buy brand new $40 000 cars or pay hundreds a month to credit cards or RRSPs?  If you can afford those, you can afford to produce your own electricity.

Plus unlike cars or investments that can depreciate, things like solar panels will actually decrease your utility bills (possibly to zero), increase the value of your home and depending on which province you're in, give you an income by selling energy to the electrical grid!

Once you've paid off the cost of equipment (2-15 years depending on what you've installed) it will still continue to provide energy for many years (solar panels can last 25-40 years).  If you would normally spend $200 a month on heat and electricity a month, producing your own energy would be equal to a $200+/month "return on investment".

You don't have to do this all at once either.

For example, our budget may not be able to provide for enough solar panels to generate all our electricity but I can buy an extra panel or two each year.  Eventually I'll reach a point where all my power is provided for by solar!

Now that I've covered money and shelter, tomorrow I'll talk about what to do if you plan on eating during retirement.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Self-Sufficiency as a Retirement Investment

One aspect of preparedness that is very popular among preppers is the concept of "prepping as retirement".

The dream of retirement is really a dream of independence and financial self-sufficiency, which is central to prepping.

Too many people in this country retire with only their Canada Pension Plan.  The good thing about the CPP is that everybody gets one; the bad thing is that it's not enough to live on.  If they're lucky they may have put some money into a Registered Retirement Savings Plan, however, this isn't true self-sufficiency.

You do not want to be dependent on only these sources of retirement income;  RRSPs can lose value and the CPP is only around $800 a month, if you're lucky.  Both are subject to tax that further reduces your income.

If you want to increase your financial independence there are really only two ways to do this:

1) decrease the money going out


2) increase the money coming in

Apart from an income, the basics you need to survive in retirement is food, shelter and water.

The less you have of the last 3, the more income you'll need to purchase them.

Fortunately the reverse is also true! The more you have of the survival basics the less income you'll need in retirement.

The prepper lifestyle can help with both these goals and may even allow you reach that "Freedom 55" or earlier!

Debts and mortgage

One of the basic rules of prepping is to avoid debt as much as possible (with the exception of a house mortgage if necessary).

It's pretty simple to realize that living on a fixed income is much easier if you don't have any debts to pay.  All that money saved will give you the FREEDOM to do what you want with your life; isn't that what liberty and independence is all about?

A popular method of paying off debts is the "snowball" method.  Basically you focus on paying off the debt with the smallest balance first and then apply that payment PLUS the regular monthly payment to the next smallest debt.

Rinse and repeat until all debts are gone including the mortgage.

A couple I know both have low incomes.  She's on a government pension and he brings in a little more than minimum wage, yet all the family and neighbors are surprised at the type of lifestyle they have.  Nice house, nice car and not wanting for anything. The secret isn't that they're scamming the system somehow, it's simply that they paid off their house years ago and they spend wisely without going into debt.

This should be your goal.

Think of all the prepping supplies and activities you could do if you had no debts...which brings us to tomorrow's post:

"Home Energy Independence as Retirement Investment"

Monday, February 22, 2010

Canadian Tire Deal for Ottawa Preppers

If you're in the Ottawa area you might want to might want to stop by the Canadian Tire on Coventry Rd. where they've got portable power battery packs on sale for $60 (regular $150).

It appears that these are only at the Coventry Rd store since I haven't seen them anywhere.

These things have 400w, LED lamps, speakers, USB jack, MP3 player jack and both 120v outlets and a 12v DC outlet.

I picked one up for the next time we have a power outage.  At least we'll have light and be able to charge our laptops / cell phones.  The 12v DC outlet will also be handy to warm up the baby's milk using the bottle warmer we have for our car.

The 12v DC outlet could also be hooked up to a solar panel and you can recharge the unit that way.  Such a set up would have been really handy during the massive 2003 blackout we had in North America.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Prepper Book Review: "The Self-Sufficient Home" by Christopher Nyerges

A few weeks ago on The Survival Podcast Jack had a very interesting interview with Christopher Nyerges.

A number of times Jack mentioned how much he liked his book, "The Self-Sufficient Home", so I just had to check it out.

Unfortunately I was a little disappointed; perhaps Jack's comments had my expectations too high.

Not that there wasn't interesting info in this book, I just found it to be a little thin on many details and the examples that it did give weren't practical and tended to..uhm...well,they tended to lean towards the crunchy granola side of things if you know what I mean.

For example, in the section dealing with wind-power, instead of presenting off-the-shelf mainstream options that anybody could do, it went into depth about a custom hand-made vertical wind generator that was built in the early 80's.

In fact, the whole book tended to focus on similar systems that were built in the 70s and 80s and were either custom-made or no longer in production.

On the plus side, there are some interesting examples and the author's writing style makes this a quick and easy read.

To sum it up I'd say this book is an interesting collection of what is possible, but not what would be probable.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Energy Tips That My Wife Hates

A common experience that I hear from preppers is that it’s hard to get their spouse on-board with the prepper lifestyle.

I’m more fortunate than others in this regard, however in my quest to pinch pennies there are still some things that are taboo (though sometimes I do them anyway; it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission).

My advice to people who are dealing with this issue is to not force your opinions too hard and try to reach a compromise. For example, if your spouse hates compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), find out why. If it’s because they still believe that CFLs all give off a bluish-green bright light, promise them that you’ll only buy CFLs that have “warm” light comparable to regular bulbs.

Offer a compromise where you’ll only install one CFL to give it a try. I bet your spouse won’t notice a difference and after a few months try switching more lights to CFLs. It worked for me!

Secondly, explain to your spouse your motivation behind these prepper steps you’re taking to show that you’re not doing it just to be “cheap”. For example, explain that the money you’ll save will help pay off debts faster so that the family can move into your dream home even sooner.

Here are a few things in my house that we’re still “working on”:


I’ve been waiting anxiously for LED light-bulb technology to reach the mainstream for years now. Unfortunately they still don’t seem to be quite there yet and until such time I’m afraid my wife just won’t go for them.

Last fall I was really excited when I found out that Walmart began carrying LED bulbs so I went out and got one as soon as I could. I picked a 3 watt bulb which claimed to replace a 40 wall incandescent bulb - amazing! I couldn’t wait to switch over all my lights and watch my electricity bill take a nose dive.

The light the LED gave off however was a harsh blue. It was similar to the light that cheap toy flashlights throw.

Secondly, there was no way that the LED could match the light of a 40 watt incandescent; at best it could replace a 20 watt, maybe even only a 10.

That being said however, I can see some use to these bulbs in certain situations. For example if during a black out you only have a small generator or one of those portable batter power packs these LEDs light your house with minimal energy draw. They could really help off-griders too.

If it were just up to me I’d install some LEDs in lights that we don’t use very often but right now my wife just isn’t sold on LEDs and I somewhat agree with her.

Bathtub Heat Recovery

In the winter while taking a shower I leave the plug in the bathtub to collect the hot water. I let the water cool off in the tub which warms and humidifies the bathroom while I get ready for work on those cold mornings.

This really annoys my wife for some reason which I suspect is because she has to reach into the cold, dirty water when I often forget to unplug the tub after it’s cooled off.

I’d recommend you try this because I’m always surprised at what a good job it does warming the room. Plus you don’t get that rush of cold air into the shower when you turn on the hot water.

If you’ve got as much body hair as I do though, for your spouse’s sake, please remember to unplug when done.

Preventing Phantom Draw with Powerbars

Phantom power really annoys me.

Every electronic device that has an unnecessary clock on it drives me up the wall. I’ve seen living rooms with 7 different time displays from various devices each drawing power and most not even showing the correct time!

Not many people realize how much electricity the stuff in our home uses even when they’re supposedly turned off! TVs, microwaves, radios, DVD players they all use power when not turned on.

Furthermore, anything that has a power adapter plugged into the wall is drawing power even it if isn’t on. If you touch them they’re usually warm from the electricity it’s using even if the device isn’t connected to it.

With this in mind, I went around the house and unplugged everything we don’t use regularly such as the spare TV and the VCR that we hadn’t used in years. My wife was okay with that.

However, when I proposed using powerbars with switches to de-power the rest of our items that have phantom draw she wasn’t so supportive. These would have included our microwave and one big powerbar for our TV, DVD player, video game systems, satellite receiver and wireless modem.

The idea would have been to turn off everything with one powerbar switch when we went to bed or when we left for work.

I estimate that the TV alone is costing us about $150 a year in phantom draw!

My wife however is afraid that we’ll lose the settings on these devices which I’m not too sure will occur. Years ago after a blackout I recall reprogramming TVs and VCRs. However I think most modern devices have memory built in now to save the settings because I don’t recall having to reprogram anything during recent blackouts.

As a compromise I’m going to start unplugging “my things” when not in use like the video game systems and hopefully when she realizes that it’s not so bad, we can do the rest.

As for the microwave doesn’t make sense to me that it draws power 24/7 just so we can save a second or two when using it for maybe only 15 minutes or so a day. My idea would to plug it into a powerbar and turn it on/off the bar before or after we warm something.

To my wife however she doesn’t see the value in doing all this just to save a few cents a month from the microwave (and I kinda see her point).

This post reminds me though; since we got our Playstation 3 we use it to watch all our movies…that means I can unplug the DVD player; YES! You gotta savor the little victories when you can.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Intro to Canadian Prepping

Hi all!

Thanks to Kymber for setting me up on the Canadian Preppers Network!

I’ve always had an interest in “survivalism” but was wary of the “extreme” elements involved, or at least how survivalism was presented in the media. I really wasn’t interested in owning dozens of firearms and was turned off by the “Rambo mentality” of some survivalists.

I’m not expecting to be overrun by fascist government zombie soldiers and I’m not too worried about the world ending in 2012. What I’m more concerned about is how my family would handle another ice storm like Eastern Ontario had in 1997 where we were without heat and power for weeks or if for some reason we had to get by on just one income.

A few months ago I found Jack Spirko’s “The Survivalist Podcast” and became hooked. His thoughts concerning “modern survivalism” and the “prepper” movement perfectly shaped the vague notions I had floating in my head and presented them in a organized way. At the Survival Podcast forums I finally found a group of people proposing sensible solutions to real-life problems.

The prepper movement is so versatile and “big tent” that it appeals to the hardcore survivalist, to the “treehuggers” to the stay-at-home mom. In fact, one thing that appealed to me is that so many women are not just becoming preppers; but they’re also becoming leaders in the community!

My goal is to do a post or two a week and I’ll cover things a young Canadian family like mine can do to take steps toward preparedness and independence including:

- debt repayments
- simple energy efficiency tips
- easy first prepping steps
- planning and building a new (semi) off-grid home

Being fairly new to prepping I’m hoping to document my progress on these topics and learn from the comments of other preppers.

For now I’ll leave you with my personal motto:

“If you don’t take control of your life, somebody else will.”