HomePosts Tagged "organization"

A best friend in need (BFIN) is a great friend indeed – especially if it can suck the air out of every bag, helping you organize the shit out of your B.O.B.

I was, of course, referring to the vacuum sealer (although that could have easily described every guy’s first-gold-digger-mistaken-for-true-love relationship), a great piece of technology that makes packing a piece of cake. Sure, many of you would come off telling me that this nifty gadget’s been around for quite a while and that I should get out more, but better late than never, as our grandparents used to say.

Indeed, I have to admit that the vacuum sealer’s been somewhat of a late-coming revelation, but that’s mostly because I had the impression that there’s nothing more than I could’ve learned about neat packing.

I was dead wrong. Anyway, I stumbled upon this gadget during one of my trips to the downtown thrift shop – paid around 15 bucks for the sealing machine and two dozen packs of sealing bags. I guess you can also order it online or find it at a hardware store or something, but if you come across one in a thrift, don’t miss out on the opportunity.

So, after packing everything that can be packed, I decided to write this piece to share with you people just how helpful such a doodad can be, especially if you have trouble organizing your stuff. And because nobody likes very long and tedious foreplay (unless there’s booze involved), here are a couple of cookie ways of how to use a vacuum sealer around the house.

  1. Creating weatherproof containers for your meds

Why waste a truckload of bucks on the weatherproof first-aid kit when you can create one using vacuum sealer bags? Thank you, Internet, for telling me this after spending 150 bucks on a heavy-duty kit from my local drug store.

Anyway, if you really want to make a medkit that can withstand anything from heavy rains to snow storms or any Kingdom Come events, grab everything you need and place them in one of these nifty bags. Be careful when sealing your items, especially when it comes to stuff that doesn’t take kindly to moisture. A great workaround would be to seal your medical supplies with a small desiccant silica gel pack.

That should get rid of any remaining moisture. Now, if you really want something hospital-grade, you can try out this nifty trick – get yourself one of those cosmetics bags (you can usually find them in any supermarket, especially around Father’s Day) or a padded Pepsi cooler. Next, take everything out of your regular first-aid kit and separate them. Put your pickup scissors in one sealable bag, sterile gauze in another, painkiller meds in the other, and so on.

Make sure that every object is sterile before placing them in the sealable bags. Vacuum the air out of each bag, place packs in your cooler or cosmetics bag and, voila, you now have a hospital-grade first-aid kit. What I like to do is leave a small gap in the upper part of the bag, in cases I need to break open the pack really fast (you should do this for stuff like gloves, gauze, and pickups). You can seal off the rest completely.

  1. Storing important documents and copies

As you know, one of the most crucial aspects of preparing a bug out bag is ensuring that you have at least one folder or something that contains copies after important items such as house deed, medical insurance, driver’s license, and whatnots. Sure, you can go ahead and buy a folder or something for your documents, but watch out for drizzles or snow.

One clever way of making sure that your docs remain intact no matter what would be to put them in a vacuum sealer bag. I did this for all my docs and copies, Yes, you can seal even the originals. Now, if you have very old documents, it would be a good idea to laminate them instead of placing them in vacuuming bags.

Apart from the fact that they look really neat and ready to be framed, the lamination foil also protects them from stuff like oil, moisture, dirt, dust or anything that may hasten the paper’s weathering rate. I found out that vacuum sealing is a great way to safeguard old docs, books, sketchbooks, and notebooks from those blasted paper moths which literally eat everything in their path (that’s how I lost my Don Quixote princeps edition).

  1. Keeping valuables away from prying eyes

If you have valuable objects like jewellery, gold & silver bullion, Tim Hortons discount tickets, you should consider vacuum sealing them before stashing them in your hiding place of choice. In this form, they’re way easier to retrieve and, believe it or not, vacuum protects valuable objects from things like moisture, dirt, dust, mold, mildew, and, of course, people who ask far too many questions.

If you have gadgets that are no longer of use to you, don’t throw them away if you can salvage the component. Put them in a sealable bag and stash them in your garage or something. Remember that in an SHTF situation, an older but functional phone battery can become more valuable than a bar of gold – priorities! It’s always a question of priorities.

  1. Crafting tailored MREs

Nothing beats that feeling of having a well-organized B.O.B, especially when it comes to the food part. MREs come in all shapes and sizes, meaning that sometimes it’s pretty challenging to keep everything nice and tidy. A great workaround would be to make tailored, vacuum-sealed MREs.

Here’s the deal: no two preppers have the same tastes in food. I, for one, like homemade meals ready to eat and would gladly get rid of stuff like crackers, biscuits, beef jerky, trail mix or potato chips. Whatever your SHTF culinary preferences are, sealing the food in vacuum bags will help you save a lot of space, which you can use for other gadgets and trinkets. Just be sure to toss a pack of desiccant silica gel in each food bag before using the vacuum to suck the air out.

  1. Weatherproofing hiking and camping supplies

Yes, I know you can use cheap garbage bags to weatherproof your clothes and undies, but do bear in mind that a thin plastic sheeting won’t keep your stuff dry for long, especially if there’s extra moisture in the air. One way of making sure that your clothes retain that out-of-the-wardrobe freshness would be to vacuum seal each piece of apparel before tossing them back into your B.O.B or hiking pack.

  1. Creating cheap storage containers for oil, vinegar, salt, and sugar

Among other emergency food, oil, vinegar, salt, and sugar are known to last almost indefinitely, provided that they’re stored in the proper conditions. With a vacuum sealer, you can create ultra-safe containers for your foods.

Sugar and salt are easy to pack, but you may want to pay extra attention when vacuum sealing oil and vinegar (you should consider looking for bags that come with bottlenecks and stoppers). Moreover, you can also make B.O.B versions by using smaller sealable bags.

  1.  Making awesome marinades

As you know, some types of meats like wild game, need to sit in a marinade for at least a couple of days before it can be cooked. Sure, you can put everything in a zip-lock bag before sticking it in a freezer, but there’s always that small chance of air getting inside.

Another reason why it’s better to use vacuum sealer bags has very much to do with refrigeration. Zip-locked marinade needs to stay cool. Meat and marinade that have been vacuum sealed can be kept basically anywhere because there’s no air left to oxidize the meat. Go ahead and have fun with your vacuum-sealed marinade. Just be sure to cook it soon.

  1. Easy icepacks

Don’t have anything on hand to put the ice in? No problem! Take the ice out of the freezer and toss in a small vacuum bag. Seal, make sure there are no leaks and use immediately. You can also stockpile icepacks for later use.

  1. Making spice and condiment packs

Remember the last time you were out camping, and you had to carry all these spice and condiments packs because you didn’t know for sure which one would pair best with the meat?

Well, if you have one of these awesome gadgets, you can make your own condiment packs and spice mixes. Even better is the fact that you can make person-tailored portions. For instance, if you’re more partial to mustard than to ketchup, you can put a little extra for yourself.

Same goes for the other members of your family or hiking group. As for the spice pack, the vacuum sealer eliminates the need to carry all these small packs of salt, pepper, paprika or whatever. Save yourself the trouble of having to carry those around by creating your very own spice mix. Here’s my all-time favorite:

  • Dried minced onion (around three tablespoons).
  • Dried thyme (one tablespoon).
  • Allspice (one or two tablespoons).
  • Black pepper (one tablespoon).
  • Cinnamon (one teaspoon).
  • Cayenne pepper (one or two teaspoons).
  • Sea salt (one teaspoon).
  • Garlic powder (one teaspoon).

Crush everything into a fine powder, add to your sealable bag, give it a shake or two, and enjoy.

  1. Storing bed sheeting and linen

I used to have an entire wardrobe filled with bed sheets and linen. Yes, I know everyone has trouble organizing it, which is exactly the reason why I went ahead and tried to vacuum-seal everything inside.

It’s best to do this after ironing them (allow them to cool down before bagging and tagging to ensure that there’s no moisture inside the pack). You can throw a pack or two of desiccant silica gel if you like. Anyway, I very much prefer vacuum-sealing my bed stuff because you can store them virtually anywhere, leaving you with extra space for new clothes or whatever.

It’s best to take this one step at a time. First vacuum-seal your winter linen, while keeping the spring\summer stuff within reach. When the time comes to use them again, pop open the bags, and seal the rest. You can do the same with jackets, parkas, hunting socks, scarves, gloves or anything wintery.

That’s it for my list on how to take full advantage of your vacuum sealer. As I’ve mentioned, the machine itself is very cheap (you can probably find one in a thrift store as I did). Still, you may have some trouble finding suitable bags – try Amazon or inquire at the store. You can always buy plastic rolls, cut them to shape, seal one end with a laminator or something if you’re looking to upscale or downscale project. Missed anything? Hit the comment section and let me know your thoughts.

A best friend in need (BFIN) is a great friend indeed – especially if it can suck the air out of every bag, helping you organize the shit out of


There’s a little tool called a health wheel I learned about as a victim’s advocate forever ago. Another variant is called a wellness wheel. They’re not complete and total bunk since they can help keep our lives more balanced, but the real reason I bring them up is that as soon as I saw one, I immediately thought of the preparedness application. It’s not about the mental and emotional health. It’s about the balance. When wheels are balanced, we roll much more smoothly through life’s up and downs. Converting a wellness wheel to a preparedness wheel gives us an easy visual of where we’ve concentrated our efforts and if the rest of our preparedness needs and goals are in balance.

Anybody who’s dealt with a broken wagon wheel or a bent or flat bike, cart, or dolly tire can tell you how much harder they are to deal with. In preparedness, leaving one wedge of our wheel empty while another bulges can have serious implications – like watching crops and gardens we were counting on fail for lack of the pest control we usually buy, or having whole bedrooms of firearms and ammo but watching them disappear because we had a lack of smoke detectors and fire control mechanisms.


Health & Wellness or Happiness wheels can be found in many formats, but all were designed to help people self-assess the balance in their lives. The same can be applied to preparedness to ensure we aren’t overly concentrating on one aspect while ignoring another.


Working in stages isn’t a new concept. Tweaking a health or happiness wheel into a Preparedness Wheel just allows us to visualize our progress, increasing the chances that we truly are well prepared for the small stages, and haven’t wasted time, money and space for lack of focus on another area
prp-wheelPotential categories for our Preparedness Wheel include:

Some of them lend to being grouped together for easy comparison. Some have less direct impact on each other. Some things like basic tools might cross between categories and thus rate their own wedge. Whether we want to only track physical items or want to include training and skills development is just one of the ways we can tailor a wheel to our own uses.


We can tailor our wheel however we want – to include only supplies, or the skills we’ll need to use them. We can also create separate wheels for all phases of preparedness – like the skills we want to acquire – so we can visualize our progress.


One of the reasons we’d use a preparedness wheel instead of just a list is that it allows at-a-glance progress evaluation, like other pie charts. That means the items on it do need to be measurable. Those measures can take place in our heads, however, or on a list. If I wanted to include a wheel for my dairy produce use, I might start with an add-a-dollop yogurt or cheese, and my progression toward 100% might be harder, more difficult, longer-storing cheeses made from powders or homemade rennet.

Customize your preparedness wheel to the best fit for you

Modifications to this are endless. There are reams of variants of the health and wellness wheel it’s taken from – no reason our spinoff can’t be the same. Go wild.

Make your preparedness wheel four or six primary wedges if inclined, and have other wheels that represent each of those categories in more detail.

For example, I could call it food & water, security, health & hygiene, and interactions. Then I could have a wheel of however many wedges to represent things like: stored foods in days or weeks or by pound, livestock and their various produce, livestock feed, my garden and crop seeds, tools and equipment, my stored water, various water treatments, and the sustainability/backups for my water plan(s). I’d have another wedge to represent each of my other categories as well.

At some point, just making a checklist or Excel/Access doc for the nitty gritty is going to be easier, but you can use those to generate charts as well for visualization and balance in preparedness. For example, my goal is to have no more than 20% of my dry grains be represented by either wheat or corn. As I add various grains and potatoes to my “starches/calorie base” category, I can run a chart to see where I stand with each of my types to keep to those levels.


We can use any number of wedges that we’re comfortable with to develop our own preparedness wheels.


Use a clock template to create twelve wedges quickly and easily. Instead of dividing each wedge into ten to create a percentage, make it twelve there, too, to represent a month of total needs in that category.

Dividing by weeks or months can be especially beneficial in keeping us balanced when it comes to food and the ability to prepare our foods. I will say it as often as I can: It does me no good to have 1-3-6-12-18-36 months of beans, grains, and pasta, 2 weeks of water, and 10K rounds of ammo (unless I also have a well or walkable-distance water source). I can just soak and use passive solar to turn a lot of grains and pastas into something consumable, but there are some things (kidney beans) that really do need to simmer, and if part of my plan is eating my hares or chooks or the abounding small game I’ve bet my survival on, I have to be able to cook them. A trash can of charcoal, a couple of five-pound fuel tanks, five gallons of lamp kerosene, and a shoebox of candles is not going to get me too far, especially if that’s also my heating and lighting fuels.

I also have to be able to have clean enough hands not to be giving myself diseases and having my hard-earned supplies running right through be, and to be able to treat myself should that misfortune occur.

The flip side of that, however, is to keep our wheel from overbalancing the other way, and some of that comes from honest self-assessment. Do I honestly have enough food that I need to cook to invest in timber axes and saws? Do I have enough water to merit diving that way?

Honest self-assessment is vital to how we assign priority even in the food and fuels example listed.


If I have acres of woods for a family of four, firewood and the tools to collect it are a worthwhile investment.

If I have acres of woods for a family of four, firewood and the tools to collect it are a worthwhile investment. If I live in a suburb with condos on the other side of a 40-foot-deep stretch of woods, I might want to hold off on turning myself into Paul Bunyan and plan for more foods that don’t have to be cooked at all, because others are going to knock on my door or take my wood pile or tools. If I have my target 20 acres but it’s grass pasture and flat farm, with only tendrils of woods and thickets between me and the next and a few fruit and shade trees near each house, I might invest in propane, charcoal and salvage wood instead of planning to compete with the neighbors for those tendrils and trees.

The wheel lets us keep that balance between our food and cooking fuels, just like other aspects of preparedness.

Big Benefits for Beginners

Going the other way, especially for beginners, consider letting the progressive rings or tick marks represent days and make it 7-14. Then make another where the levels represent weeks. Take a relatively quiet day and set a weekly time to fill it in. Sometimes actually seeing the progress helps not only with balance, but with motivation. Beginners – especially those who feel locked in by jobs and living spaces – sometimes feel totally overwhelmed or even worse, inadequate or incapable of ever reaching the levels of the people they’re reading posts and comments from. There’s no reason for that and this version of a pie chart can help mitigate it by making sure that the comparison most at the forefront is against a reasonable goal.

Read More: Prepping 101 – A Step By Step Plan for How to get Started Prepping

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to strive for sustainability, the perfect homestead the perfect distance from the perfect small but accepting and tight-knit community in the perfect climate. However, no Olympian ever popped out of a womb ready to challenge for the gold. They wormed, they crawled, they toddled, they walked, they ran, and then they kept running and training until they were running their trials and winning on the national stage.

We work in increments, ideally in balanced increments, and eventually we get there.

When the Balance Gets Badly Off

Some things just aren’t going to work for a weekly or monthly wedge, which is where having our targets written down and using the percentage-based measure comes into play. The wheel is not intended to suggest that there should be a one-for-one stockpiling of aspirin, canned beans, candles, tarps, ammo, and bandages, and that’s where filling in a wheel with percentages can help. Even so, there are priorities that shift.


Beans, Bullets and BandAids….

I want my wheel to roll smoothly. I have this goal for a full companion animal and human dental and surgical suite, biohazard containment, and decon setup. Percentagewise, my goals might be in the neighborhood of $5-10K and nearly at zombie-ready at 60 percent. However, if 60 percent of, say, my food storage, is only 4 months … Would I be better served just to be able to handle standard first aid, sprains, a loose filling, stomach illnesses, everybody in the house to have a 10-day flu, and allergies, and applying the budget to becoming more financially resilient or bringing in the equipment/supplies to decrease my irrigation needs?

A lot of medical is like that, even beyond the fact that post-surgery dressing and bandage needs are enormous. Another common category that doesn’t always work out well purely by percentage is ammo and security.

Security is much like medical. There are some things we are each going to decide are far more important than the wife’s tampons for another month or a week of doggy chow. Other things … maybe not so much.

Firearms and ammo, however, we might assess a higher priority because we can’t manufacture them ourselves, and expect that they’ll disappear from stores way, way, way faster than plumbing connections for water barrels, chickens at the Human Society/ASPCA, baking soda, socks, or hammers and roofing paper.

Those are cases where we might be better served by assigning an outside priority rating. We’d like X amount of food, Y amount of water, and Z amount of other items before we increase our ammo stockpiles or pick up backup parts for something. We make note elsewhere, or we can assign a bare-minimum level to compare to the rest of our chart instead of our ultimate goal.

Exceptions to Balance

There are some exceptions to balance, as mentioned. Another exception is personal or family crises. These include things like injury, job loss, and big bills. They also include the loss of power or water during daily life.

Those are times when we could easily foresee grabbing some paper plates and a few small solar chargers so Moms can still have music while she makes dinner and phones can stay charged, and where we might have two weeks or three months of groceries without also planning to have enough water and fuels to cook, clean, and wash up before and after those meals.

Our goals for those aren’t quite as far reaching as a hurricane evac with four dogs, three kids and two horses where we’ve made arrangements to camp at a farm 150 miles inland, or any of the major events various preppers foresee. They might exist as a separate lists, since we’re not looking at being as utterly dependent on ourselves and our supplies as a big event. Since it doesn’t take as long to reach those goal (or involve as much memory of what we do and don’t have yet) there might not be as much benefit to a visual tool like the wheel.

  There’s a little tool called a health wheel I learned about as a victim’s advocate forever ago. Another variant is called a wellness wheel. They’re not complete and total bunk