Curried Wealth Building
Finding an Edge

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July 12, 2009
Issue 53  -  Off the Grid
This is a very difficult subject to write about because it is an unlikely scenario and there are very few Americans who even have this as a remote possibility.  Unfortunately for them, I believe that the odds are not as long as they might think, that one day the grid might go down.  This could happen from a natural disaster, financial collapse, or a weapon attack.  A natural cause could be a mag 9 earthquake.  This could be devastating and although the east coast is considered safer than the west, there are fault lines running in many areas of the Eastern United States that have been revealed by space satellite images.  Remember the whole earth is subject to any number of natural disasters.  A weapons attack could be nuclear bomb or a chemical attack leaving large areas impassable.  This would seriously reduce supplies to adjacent areas.  These could also wipe out power sources in certain regions of the country.  A frying of the grid, which could also happen due to a magnetic storm, would take at LEAST 12 months to repair and possibly 24 months.
So how does one prepare for this?  Well, first, the key word of any long term survival plan is sustainability.  Our ancestors lived off the land for centuries.  The skills are all known and documented but we, as a society, have shown little interest in learning the skills due to the large increase in our transportation infrastructure.  If this is impaired in any way, we WILL have to adapt, like it or not.  We import over 60% of our oil and while 30% of that comes from Mexico and Canada, the other 30% will need to be shipped in.  Any kink in that pipeline will have dramatic effects on us, as Americans.  You may not lose the use of your vehicle totally, but you won't be driving around at any time you like for any reason imaginable.
The same 6 areas of life must be accounted for in a long term situation as in a short term scenario.
1.  Shelter
2.  Food
3.  Water
4.  Protection
5.  Money/Income
6.  Energy
For my plans, I'm assuming I can still live in my house. If not, I am reverting to my Bug Out Plan here.  What needs to be changed/adjusted in a typical house?  For a shelter it must have heat, (air conditioning is a luxury that can't be engaged in during an emergency with limited or no power) water, sewer, and security  Your house will give you protection from snow, rain, and wind.  Heating will be impossible if electricity is gone.  Even natural gas systems require electricity.  This leaves you a couple options, more clothes or a fire/fireplace.  If you have little ones, heat will almost be a necessity or life will be miserable.  A pellet fireplace that can also work on other fuels is an option.  These aren't that expensive and can put off a fair amount of heat.  A backup plan here is definitely a must and I have more data below.   
To me, I don't want to rely on anyone for food.  There have been tremendous strides made in food storage both in shelf life and more importantly in taste.  Your pantry probably has a fairly good supply of food, maybe two weeks.  After that it can get dicey.  Your freezer can be a long term supply of food but it needs power.  I wouldn't count on being able to keep enough fuel to run your freezer every day for 4 hours for months on end.  Unless you have a storage tank for gas, that just isn't feasible for most.  Therefore, eating/salvaging (drying the meat, etc..)  the food in the freezer would be the number one goal.  This will be my plan for the first month.  After that you will need to store food.  Believe it or not it just isn't that expensive. (yet)  This stored food will also pay big dividends if food costs take off as I think they will.  6 months supply of food will take up a fairly large chunk of real estate.  A low cost site I've found is  They have a huge selection of all types of foods and they are cheap.  DO NOT BUY military style MREs as they are expensive and have many side effects.  Read this to know all about what type of food to buy:


A lot of people are unsure about the differences between dehydrated foods and freeze dried foods. Both foods are optimum for long term storage, offering essentially the same shelf life for the same type of products. The real difference is found in these areas:


Dehydrated foods are without any seasoning or additional ingredients (usually). There are some exception to this, found in the "mixes" and the soups and stews we carry. These products do contain multiple ingredients and can be used to make a complete meal without adding anything.

But many of the other products in the Rainy Day line are single ingredients. For example, rice. It's just rice, the same rice that you can buy in the supermarket. Our products are all packaged for long term storage in cans, buckets or even pouches, which makes a decided difference in terms of freshness, nutrition and shelf life. We also have a number of products packaged in bags. Bagged products should be put in airtight containers for long term storage, or simply used.

Dehydrated foods require cooking and seasoning. Cooking times vary, but most are added to hot boiling water. You can also do "thermos cooking" by adding boiling water to a thermos, adding ingredients and letting it sit for a couple of hours. Just forget about it, it will cook itself. This will cook the food slowly using the minimum amount of energy.

Stovetop cooking is easy too. Add the ingredients to boiling water and let it cook until tender. This varies from a few minutes to a hour or so, depending on the product. Whole grains and legumes, such as rice, beans and wheat take the longest, while potatoes, par-boiled rice and other products like pancake mixes are the easiest and shortest cooking time. By adding water, you're rehydrating the food back into it's original natural state before dehydration, but it's still "raw". It still needs to be cooked until tender.

Pancake mixes, bread mixes, cookie mixes, muffins, etc., are all very good and require just a little water (cold) to be ready for baking or frying. Scone mixes are an example of fried bread (Indian bread) and are very easy to prepare.

Most dehydrated food will benefit from adding seasoning. Rice doesn't taste like much until you add something to it. You can use anything, dehydrated vegetables, TVP (textured vegetable protein, a meat substitute, real meat, potatoes, whatever you want) and seasoning, such as salt, pepper, tobasco sauce, garlic, or even ketchup. Pasta is the same, they don't taste like much until they've had something added to them. Spaghetti is everyone's favorite, but it's the toppings that make it so. You can add any ingredients or topping to dehydrated foods. Seasoning is recommended simply for taste.

Freeze dried foods, on the other hand, are usually foods containing a multitude of ingredients and seasonings. Nothing more is needed, just a little cook time in hot water to rehydrated them and have them ready to eat. They are pre-seasoned, pre-cooked and pre-mixed with other ingredients, making them the fastest, easiest and tastiest foods available.


Cooking is very simple. Measure out the amount of ingredients you wish to make (depending on the number of servings you want) and dump into hot water. Personally, I don't actually measure anything. I just scoop out a cup or two, depending on how many are eating and dump into boiling water. If I've too much water, I can add more food, or simply drain a little water off. If I've too little water, just add a bit. Or you can follow the instructions, found on the side of every package we sell.

Cooking times are pretty short. Usually, 10 - 15 minutes will do it for most foods. This applies to all the freeze dried foods from all of our product lines, and many of the soups, stews and mixes from the Rainy Day food lines. Items such as biscuits, cookies, pancakes and bread mixes take a little cold water to make dough and are baked. Indian bread (Scones) are fried on a hot frying pan for flat bread.

Other items, such as rice, beans, wheat (whole grains) take longer cooking times and can be simmered for 30 minutes to an hour or more. For these products, a pressure cooker is great, drastically shortening the cooking time required. A pressure cooker is a huge time saver and energy saver, if you don't have one, we definitely recommend one. Just add all of the ingredients into the pot and cover with water. Put on a low heat and let it cook for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Even beans cook considerably faster with a pressure cooker then on the stove. Make sure you don't let the cooker run low on water, so check it occasionally until you get a feel for how they work.

Dehydrated and freeze dried foods are actually rather easy to prepare and cook. They are identical to the foods you are buying now in the supermarket. All that rice, beans, pasta and mixes you are accustomed to buying and preparing? That's what we sell, same food, lower price and much larger quantities then those little packages you're throwing away now. Our food is high quality, tasty and nutritious, packaged for long term shelf life.


Keep on hand your favorite seasonings. We sell a few seasonings, but there are many more. Dehydrated food should be seasoned for best taste. The freeze dried entrees won't need any at all, unless you're one of those that drowns everything in ketchup. You can even make ketchup from our tomato powder....


Freeze dried food is usually an "entree", containing multiple items for a complete meal. Most dishes have several items included within them and you don't need to do any other cooking or adding ingredients to make a complete meal. Because it's freeze dried, you simply add hot water, or add the product to hot water and cook for about 10 minutes. These rehydrates the food completely and it's ready to eat!

Dehydrated foods are usually single ingredients. You can mix any dehydrated food with any other food product for a combination of tastes, textures and varieties.

Best Value

Pound for pound, and dollar for dollar, dehydrated food costs less then freeze dried food. We get this question a lot. Nothing comes close to the value of dehdyrated food, not even store bought canned food. A single can of dehdyrated green beans, for example, represents 27 cans of canned green beans, which take up a whole lot of space and is mostly water.

Freeze dried food are the easiest and tastiest foods we carry, bar none. If you don't like to cook and want great foods with great taste (and free shipping!), freeze dried foods is the hands down winner.

Number of Servings

Every package is labeled with serving size, instructions and preparation information. The large #10 cans (large coffee can size) will make quite a few servings, depending on the product and product line. For example, a #10 can of freeze dried entree will make 10 - 11 servings on average. A #10 can of dehydrated green beans however, contains 48 servings. The actual number of servings is found on each product detail page on our website.

Dehydrated and freeze dried foods are highly concentrated, compared to what you will find in the supermarket. There's no fancy packaging, excess air and small serving sizes. Even our 2 person foil pouches contain a whopping amount of food when rehydrated. I just did a 30 day diet eating nothing but dehdyrated and freeze dried food in December, 2006 and couldn't finish most single servings sizes.

Opened Containers

A lot of people want to know how fast they must consume the food in an opened container. This question applies to any of the foods we sell, whether cans, buckets or even the mylar bags or foil pouches.

We've found that if the container is left sealed (put the lid on or close up the mylar or foil bag), we can eat the food five years or more past the date it was opened. We've been eating these foods for almost twelve years and have had many opened containers that we didn't get back to for a long time. Keep them sealed backup by placing the lids back on and keep the humidity, moisture and bugs out. When you need some food, scoop out what you need and close the lid. It's that simple.

Mountain House say's "two weeks" to consume an opened container. We don't know why, it's not been any sort of a problem for us to eat foods left open for several years. Rainy Day doesn't specify, and neither does Alpine Aire or Richmoor, so we don't know their stated position. For us though, it's been years with no noticable decline in taste or quality. This applies to both dehydrated and freeze dried foods.

Shelf Life

We list the shelf life for the Rainy Day food line of product right on the website. Mountain House advertises a 30 year shelf life. When pressed, they admit it's 25 years "plus", with at least 5 years past their expected expiration date. But they also said it was "indefinite" at the same time. Alpine Aire says 7 - 10 years on their foil pouches and 15 years on the freeze dried foods. Our experience has been you can expect 25 - 30 years on either of these companies. Store your food storage in a cold (or cool) dark place out of direct sunlight, preferably at a constant temperature. Keep it away from flooding basements or put it on pallets if you need to. Read the link above for more information on temperature, time, humidity and oxygen for more information.

Space Requirements

Storable foods, whether freeze dried or dehdyrated foods, are very compact, way more compact then canned foods. There is no excess water or fancy packaging, no empty air spaces and giant sized boxes with tiny servings inside. A entire years supply can be fit into a 2 ft x 3 ft area, stacked 5 ft high. Or under the bed. Or in a closet. Or in the pantry. Or in the basement, or under the house. These foods are concentrated, because the water has been removed before packaging. A single can contains many servings, instead of a single serving found in the supermarket.

Food Security

This is a subject dear to heart. We have followed closely the issues with the global food supply for many years. Most people are utterly unaware how fragile the US food supply really is. The mega-mergers of family owned farms and corporate giants, the declining energy supply, the fragile state of our infrastructure and the vulnerability to things like hurricanes, pandemic, and oil prices are often misunderstood. America is the land of plenty, right?

Wrong. Not always. And certainly, not forever. During times of crisis, the supermarkets are stripped bare in a matter of hours. American used to stock food as part of their everyday preparations, but have since forgotten this time honored practice. Now, everyone rushes to the store to "stock up" when the news or events frighten them into doing so. Or worse, they wait until after a disaster and find out there's nothing left. This has happened countless times in America's history of regional disasters. Everything gets sold out and some merchants even take advantage of the crisis by jacking up prices sky high."

A year's supply of food for 4 would probably set you back, depending on the quantity/quality of the package will be anywhere from $2-3.5k.  That is definitely a lot of money but it might be worth it depending on your outlook.  Since the shelf life of this food is so long (over 20 years) it will be good insurance.  As an alternative, you can watch the world very closely and at the first sign of trouble go to the food warehouse and load up on staples.  Rice, flour and dried fruits would be a must.  This is a viable alternative but realize that you won't have the shelf life of the freeze dried.  However, if you buy at COSTCO and the emergency passes, you could just return it for a refund.  This is my current choice of plan but you may want to buy early.
I am also buying seeds.  This something anyone can do and they don't take up a lot of space.  Having your own source of fresh food was the norm in the past and anyone can learn to garden.   Make sure you buy heirloom seeds as they are far superior to what is in most seed packs.  Here is an explanation about heirloom seeds and their advantages:

Why it Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds

posted by Annie B. BondNov 28, 1999 12:19 pm
Why it Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds


The loss of genetic seed diversity facing us today may lead to a catastrophe far beyond our imagining. The Irish potato famine, which led to the death or displacement of two and a half million people in the 1840s, is an example of what can happen when farmers rely on only a few plant species as crop cornerstones.

One blight wiped out the single potato type that came from deep in the Andes mountains; it did not have the necessary resistance. If the Irish had planted different varieties of potatoes, one type would have most likely resisted the blight.

We can help save heirloom seeds by learning how to buy and save these genetically diverse jewels ourselves.

One kind of seed, called First generation hybrids (F1 hybrids), have been hand-pollinated, and are patented, often sterile, genetically identical within food types, and sold from multinational seed companies.

A second kind of seeds are genetically engineered. Bioengineered seeds are fast contaminating the global seed supply on a wholesale level, and threatening the purity of seeds everywhere. The DNA of the plant has been changed. A cold water fish gene could be spliced into a tomato to make the plant more resistant to frost, for example.

A third kind of seeds are called heirloom or open-pollinated, genetically diverse jewels that have been passed on from generation to generation.

With heirloom seeds there are 10,000 varieties of apples, compared to the very few F1 hyprid apple types.

The Mayan word “gene” means “spiral of life.” The genes in heirloom seeds give life to our future. Unless the 100 million backyard gardeners and organic farmers keep these seeds alive, they will disappear altogether. This is truly an instance where one person–a lone gardener in a backyard vegetable garden–can potentially make all the difference in the world.

Here are two sources for finding heirloom seeds from seed saving organizations. These organizations represent a movement of several thousand backyard gardeners who are searching the countryside for endangered vegetables, fruits and grains.

The Seed Savers Exchange
The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), is a non-profit tax-exempt organization that is saving old-time food crops from extinction.

Kent and Diane Whealy founded SSE in 1975 after an elderly, terminally ill relative bestowed three kinds of garden seeds brought from Bavaria four generations earlier.

The Whealys began searching for other “heirloom varieties” (seeds passed down from generation to generation) and soon discovered a vast, little-known genetic treasure.

SSE’s members are maintaining thousands of heirloom varieties, traditional Indian crops, garden varieties of the Mennonite and Amish, vegetables dropped from all seed catalogs and outstanding foreign varieties. Each year hundreds of members use SSE’s publications to distribute such seeds to ensure their survival.

Each winter SSE publishes a 304-page Seed Savers Yearbook which contains names and addresses of 900 members and 6,000 listings of rare vegetable and fruit varieties that they are offering to other gardeners. Seeds are obtained by writing directly to the members who are listing those varieties.

Native seeds/SEARCH
Native seeds/SEARCH (NS/S) is a non-profit seed conservation organization working to preserve the traditional native crops of the U.S. Southwest and Northwest Mexico. For centuries Native American farmers have grown corn, squash, beans and other crops under a variety of growing conditions.

NS/S encourages the continued use of these plants in their native habitats, and also distributes them widely to home gardeners, researchers and free of charge to Native American farmers. Wild relatives of crops–such as wild beans, chiles, gourds and cotton–are included in Native Seeds/SEARCH’s conservation efforts.

NS/S’s informative annual seed catalog lists more than 200 varieties for sale. Each crop listing includes seed saving information as well as culture and folklore.

Here is a nice site that sells these seeds.  Depending on the time of the year, seeds can be planted inside for a head start or directly in your garden if it's already spring.
You can go a long time without shelter.  You can go a couple weeks with very little food.  You'll be weak, but alive.  Depending on the temperature, after just a couple days without water, it can be all over.  This is something you can't afford to neglect.  Water from the county is likely to be cut off so a well is a big plus.  This will need to be powered by generator.  If you are on a public system, bottled water, or another source will be necessary.  Boiling of almost any water for 5 minutes will make water potable while bathing water can be created by with dish detergent.   Having bottled water will help. This does have a shelf life and therefore large quantities are unwise, unless you are going live off of it and rotate your stock constantly.  This can get quite costly.  It's a good idea to get in the habit of filling the sinks and tubs if you expect strong storms or any major event.  Another option is rain barrels.  These can be placed under modified gutters and can be made of plastic or metal.  Here is a write up from a community water commission:

How to Store and Purify Water

Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority during an emergency. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Warmer climates can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more. You will also need water for food preparation and hygiene. You should store a total of at least one gallon per person, per day. You should store at least a three-day supply of water for each member of your family, but a two-week supply is even better. 

Storing Water

Store your water in thoroughly washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Never use a container that has held toxic substances.   Plastic containers, such as soft drink bottles, are best. You can also purchase food-grade plastic buckets or drums.

Seal water containers tightly, label them and store in a cool, dark place.  Rotate water every six months.

Emergency Water Sources in Your Home

If a disaster catches you without a stored supply of clean water, you can use the water in your hot-water tank, pipes and ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl).

Do you know the location of your incoming water valve? You'll need to shut if off to stop contaminated water from entering your home if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines. Once you've located the shut-off valve, clearly label it and share this information with everyone in the household.

To use the water in your pipes, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your home at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from the lowest faucet in the house.

To use the water in your hot-water tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve and turning on a hot-water faucet. Do not turn on the gas or electricity when the tank is empty. Click here for instructions on how to  secure your water heater.

Purifying Water

In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis. You should purify all water of uncertain purity before using it for drinking, food preparation or hygiene.

Three Ways to Purify Water
BOILING Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 3-5 minutes, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.
DISINFECTION You can use unscented household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms.
  • Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.
  • Use only liquid bleach containing 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use colorsafe or scented bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.
DISTILLATION Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt and other impurities.
  • Fill a pot halfway with water.
  • Tie a cup to the handle on the pot's lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling in the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes.
  • The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

Emergency Outdoor Water Sources

If you need to find water outside your home, you can use these sources. Be sure to purify the water according to the instructions above before drinking it.

  • Rainwater
  • Streams, rivers and other moving bodies of water
  • Ponds and lakes
  • Natural springs

Avoid water with floating material, an odor or dark color. Use saltwater only if you distill it first. You should never drink flood water.

This is probably the most personal area within this write up.  Not everyone is comfortable with a gun and others have dozens.  Being friends with neighbors and letting them know your plans can be helpful but if they don't follow your advice they will know where to come for your food.  Desperatation comes on quickly for hungry people.  Obviously, if you are not friendly with some neighbors it would be a mistake to let them know what you are doing.  That only highlights you as a target.  If you decide to get a weapon, it would probably be wise to have at least two and a couple hundred rounds.  These could be used as barter also.  Quality locks are a necessity.  The longer a grid collapse lasts the more chance for marauders and malcontents to come around.  It would be foolish to not at least plan what steps you would take to protect your things.  Don't depend on local authorities to protect you.  Remember what happened in the Rodney King riots.  The businesses with guns were the only ones left with their stores in tact.
 You need energy for a several basic purposes:
Heating (cooling is a luxury you won't want to waste energy on)
If you are off the grid for more than a month, refrigeration is just not feasible so it is a non-issue.  If there are rolling blackouts, a freezer can keep food with four hours of power a day.
In the good old days, people didn't have lights that were used without thought or care.  When you are off the grid, this will make you change the way you look at these things.  Conserving energy will be key.  Kerosene lamps, flashlights (especially the new LED models), and fire light may be the only source of illumination.  Don't forget to have a supply of batteries and candles as a backup to the backup.  In general, limited use of lights will be demanded for the prudent.
Don't count on having any outside source of energy.  It just may not be there.  I would suggest a propane grill.  I would store at least 2 extra tanks which run about $60.  It can heat almost anything in almost any weather.  This is actually one of the easier life changes to deal with.  You might want to practice for a weekend by only eating with food made on the grill.  This is more challenging than it looks and will give you an appreciation for the luxuries you have.
Body warmth is absolutely critical for survival in the winter months.  The further south you live the better.  In Virginia, there will be at least 4 months that heat will be mandatory.  There are basically two ways to get warm:  more clothes or a heating source.  If you have small kids, a heating source will be nearly a must to have a bearable life.  Cold kids are NO fun, trust me.  Central heating, whether electric or gas will not be feasible off the grid.  Even if you have gas, the blowers and computer are typically electric.  The only real viable source of heat is probably a pellet no vent stove.
These stoves can be had for about a grand and run 8 hours on one load of pellets.  Some of them require installation and electricity so they would not be viable.  You need one that is for hunters and fishermen.  They don't require external power.  A couple months supply of pellets would obviously be needed.  This will cost about 12-15 dollars a day so 2 months would run you about $900.  A place to store that much pellet will also be an issue.  You could burn other things in these stoves but that will lead to more venting requirements.  This might be your only viable option.   See herefor an example:
These will largely be luxuries.  Washers, dryers, and the like will for the most part be useful for only for short times.  There may be rolling blackouts or complete power loss.  Another option is solar power.  The grids today are cheaper and more effective.  With a fair sized grid you can operate appliances for a short time every day.  Of course home owner associations may have prohibitions.  One could scope out a local supplier and know where to buy if trouble approached.  The more homework you do before the disaster the less you will have to do when it comes.  Remember, trying to figure things out once the disaster starts will be nearly impossible.  Have a detailed plan.  I am going to research solar more and write up a more detailed report because it could be a life saver in a grid shut down.
I believe that money could become very scarce and that the credit system could be shut down.  This means that the only cash you would have access to is your own private stash.  Make sure you have as much cash as you can comfortably have not earning interest in a place that is easily accessible.  (not a bank or safe deposit box.)  A home safe is a good option.  Barter will become more in vogue and therefore skills you have could feed your family.  Junk silver can be used for transactions as it is available in denominations as small as a dime.  As far as income, you will have to rely on yourself.  Government checks may be cut off or not honored.  (look at the IOUs currently being printed by California)  Be prepared with cash, junk silver and gold.  These in conjunction with your skills learned will get you through.  Learning a new skill such as plumbing or carpentry could pay off handsomely.  Skills which require computers or the financial infrastructure could be rendered useless.
This is plan which hopefully will never be needed.  However, any preparations you take will put you miles ahead of others who will be swimming in a sea of confusion.  Don't look at all these steps and think, "I could never do all that."  That's not true.  Any steps will help.  Below I have added some things that I am looking to do over the next few months.  Good luck.  Remember that fortune favors the prepared.
1. Buy a generator
2. Buy some seeds
3.  Buy a crank radio
4.  Buy some candles and LED lamps
5.  Buy a couple extra 5 gallon gas containers and keep them filled
6.  Keep the gas tanks in the cars at 3/4 filled
7.  Stock up the medicine cabinet
8.  Buy extra glasses and contact lens
9.  Determine how the well pump could be powered
10.  Empty the Septic tank
11.  Buy a kit to change gas grill to propane and buy an extra tank or two
12.  Investigate solar panels