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Self Reliance

Preparedness on a Budget

September 1, 2013 • Paige

September is “National Preparedness Month” – You can be the hero!


Being prepared for emergencies doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

For most of us it just takes some planning and slow-and-steady commitment to follow through.  Check out my article Basic Preparedness for a list of essential items to have in your emergency supplies kit.


Beyond the emergency supplies (food, water, first aid supplies), you need to have a plan in place.  Talk with your family about the kinds of disasters and hazards that can happen in your area, and have a designated meeting place near your home, and another one outside of your neighborhood in case it is not possible to meet close to home.


Make sure you have updated contact information for family, friends, and neighbors on hand. If the power is out, your computer is not a great place to store your contact list.

Gather copies of important paperwork, such as birth certificates, insurance policies and place those in your emergency kit.

Purchase emergency kit supplies whenever you are able to and don’t stop until you have everything you need. Watch for sales, or buy just one extra item at a time.


About once a year, check your emergency kit and update paperwork and  contact information.  Once a year is also a really good time to rotate your stored food and to check the expiration dates on everything.  If you are storing tap water in re-used plastic bottles, you should change out the water a few times each year.

Check out this guide from FEMA for National Preparedness Month for more ideas: NPM: Preparedness on a Budget

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Basic Preparedness: Severe Weather Season

June 10, 2013 • Paige

Starting this now could save your life.hurricane

Hurricane season began on June 1st, and according to NOAA, this season is expected to be “active or extremely active”. 

Preparing for severe weather and other disasters isn’t difficult or expensive.  If you are as financially-limited as most of us are these days, just build up your disaster supplies over time.  Put together whatever you have on hand today and add things one item at a time whenever you can.

Water: 1 gallon per day, per person. 

If you have nothing else, have 3 days’ supply of water stored up. If you can’t buy bottled water, fill soft drink bottles with water from your sink, cap them tightly, and store them away from sunlight. Sanitize the bottles, first.   Look for the triangle recycling symbol with the number 1 on it.  Any other type of bottle might decompose or break.   Then, every 6 months, pour the water out and replace it with fresh water. Add a bottle of water to your stash whenever you can and you’ll have what you need pretty fast.

Food: 3 day supply, non-perishable

Store a 3 day supply of food for each person. Canned food is best, but don’t forget to include a manual can opener!  Try to avoid dried or salty foods, as you’ll need lots of extra water. If you can’t spend much, buy just one can of food for your disaster supplies whenever you go to the grocery store.

Radio: Hand-crank or battery powered

You will need to stay informed of news and weather reports when the power is out. A quick internet search turns up several used emergency radios for less than $5.00, and new ones for about $15.00.   That might seem like a lot for one item, but staying informed can save your life.

First Aid Kit

If you can’t fork out $15 or so for a first aid kit, start with what you have: a zip top bag with some bandages, gauze, medical tape, and alcohol wipes or cotton balls and a bottle of alcohol if that’s what you have. Try to have some triple antibiotic ointment, as well.  It is very important that you can clean and bandage small wounds to protect against infection.


If you are in serious trouble, yelling won’t last long.  Your will only be good for a few shouts before you start to lose your voice.  A whistle makes a very loud sound with almost no exertion.

Dust Mask

Protecting your breathing passages from contaminants can be critical to protecting your life.  Mold can be a huge problem after a hurricane or flooding.

Don’t forget special-needs items:

Supplies for babies: extra formula and diapers, etc.
Supplies for pets: food, liter, extra water

Other items which are good to have in your disaster kit:

Plastic garbage bags
zip-top bags
liquid household bleach
duct tape
plastic sheeting
extra clothes and shoes
sleeping bags or blankets
games and toys
candy and comfort foods

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Growing your own sprouts

May 12, 2013 • Paige

sproutinglentils-fivedays07How to Sprout Lentils

Sprouting is something that everyone can do to grow fresh nutritious food for very little cost.  For about five years, the Gustos have been growing our own sprouts and eating them every day.

At this point, we have developed our own method of sprouting, which is what I am going to show you.

To start things off, we’ll focus on lentils.

What’s a Lentil?

Lentils are a small brownish green legume found with the dry beans and rice. The store brand usually costs about $1.40 per pound.

Note: You can sprout several different types of dry beans, but some of them are poisonous, so make sure you choose something you can safely sprout!  Example: NEVER eat sprouted kidney beans.


What do I need to start sprouting lentils?

A bag of dried lentils

A wide-mouth glass jar

A lid and a screen

  • Metal ring lids that come with a canning jar (they rust, only use them once or twice).
  • Plastic lid, cut with a hole-saw
  • Metal screen from hardware store, cut with heavy duty shears. You need this for sprouting small seeds.
  • Plastic screen, cut from craft store “Plastic Canvas”.  Large holes, lots of air-flow

If you don’t have any of that stuff, a rubber band and some window screen works pretty well, too!


Getting Started:

Prepare your materials

Wash and sanitize the jar, lid, and screen to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Do this before each new sprouting “crop”

  • Wash in hot water by hand or in a dish washer.
  • Rinse in a light vinegar or bleach solution.

Start with about  1/4 cup of dry lentils.

Pick through them and remove any small stones and debris, and rinse well with cool water.
Note: I used a half cup for this tutorial – it was way too much!


Cover lentils with water and soak for 8 – 12 hours. 

Leave lots of room for lentils to expand.


Rinse and Drain

Drain and rinse your lentils well with cool, clean water. They will have doubled in size.

Rinse and drain lentils every 8 – 12 hours.

Place jar upside down in a bowl or rack at an angle steep enough to prevent water from pooling. Ensure there is plenty of air-flow through the lid. We keep our sprouting jars in a dish drying rack with a drainboard that drains into the sink.

Photo below – Left: Lentils               Right: Black Eyed Peas.
We have switched to all plastic lids now, this photo is a few years old.


At approximately 24 hours, the lentils are beginning to sprout. 

If you are going to cook them, you could stop here.  I like to sprout them a lot longer so that I can eat them raw.

Sprouted lentils after 36 hours:


Sprouts are Ready to Eat!

At 3 days, (below), the sprouts can be eaten raw.



At 3 to 3.5 days, the sprouts begin growing little leaves.

That is when we start eating them!

Five Days



Stopping the Sprouting Process and Storing your Sprouts

Refrigerating lentils almost stops the growing process.
Rinse sprouts and drain very well, gently pat dry with a towel.

  • Store sprouted lentils in a clean, dry jar secured with an airtight lid.
  • Rinse and drain well once per day.
  • Eat within a few days.

Lentil sprouts smell heavenly when you lightly saute them, but we usually eat them raw, sprinkled into our salads.  We usually have two jars going so that we have a constant supply of fresh sprouts.

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Growing sprouts at home: update

July 28, 2010 • Paige

We have come a long way with sprouting since my last post about it!  Here are some pictures and the basics of how we’re sprouting at home.

You need:

  • a jar with a lid that allows air-flow
  • pantyhose and a rubber band works if you keep it pulled tight, or use a mason jar with some screen from the hardware store.
  • dry lentils (a quarter cup makes a jar full)

Rinse lentils well and soak in plenty of water for 12 hours.

Dump out the water, and rinse the lentils well.
Drain and set the jar on its side at an angle so water can drip out and does not “pool” in the jar.
– you can leave it on the counter. Don’t worry about dark or sunlight – it works no matter what!!

Every 6 – 12 hours, rinse in cool water and dump the water out.
Make sure plenty of air can flow through whatever lid you are using or the sprouts will go rancid, fast.
After your first or second rinse, lentils will look something like this:

This (below) is about a day and a half.  Let them grow for about two to three days before eating

This is about four days:

The same method works for Black Eyed Peas, however after the first day and a half (or so), you will need to dump them in a large bowl of water and pick out / pull off the hulls. It is labor intensive, and most people won’t bother. You also MUST to use a good brand of Black Eyed Peas – not the cheap store brand.

We use a dish rack because we make so much. The one in front is lentils, the other three are black eyed peas, all have been going for about four days when this picture was taken.

A tablespoon of black eyed peas will grow to fill a large mason jar after about four days – see?

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More garden pics

May 19, 2010 • Paige

We bought two blueberry bushes for $9.00 each, and they are already putting off blueberries. 

We have seven tomato plants – this one is “husky” cherry tomato!

Cucumber in the back, several different kinds of basil, oregano, dill and an un-identified shrub.

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Adventures in Gardening

May 17, 2010 • Paige

Green beans, black-eyed peas, corn, squash, and snow peas.   Everything except the squash is from seed, which was really cheap.

We’ve scavenged or found long sticks and pipes for bean poles.We laid down sheets of cardboard to help block the grass and weeds from coming back. 
Those cost us nothing!   

Cucumber plants! These are from seed.

Green beans, black-eyed peas, corn, and squash.  We used wood from the shed and flattened cardboard boxes to block weeds.  The bean poles are scavenged from our shed, as well.

We enclosed an area that doesn’t get used.  The fence was stretched along the diagonal, reducing the number of  t-poles we needed to find or buy.  We found one and bought two.

The middle pot has rosemary and carrots.  The yellow pot is just carrots, but it was planted the same day as the middle pot.  Carrots LOVE rosemary, apparently!

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Food in the pantry: Better than money in the bank?

May 12, 2010 • Paige

I’ve come across this saying a few times:  “Food in the pantry is better than money in the bank.”

For a long time, I didn’t agree with it.  I thought that having money in hand (or in the bank) meant that my family was secure in case “anything happened”. In some ways, that can be true, however – you can live without everything except food, water, and shelter. 

If something catastrophic were to happen as some people are predicting with the US economy and money system – the dollars in your wallet and the bank would potentially be worth absolutely nothing, yet the food in your pantry would suddenly become an extremely valuable asset. We need only look at what happened during the Great Depression to know this is true. In any true emergency, the last thing you want is for your family to be hungry.  If your family is fed, you are free from that worry and can focus on the situation at hand. 

Don’t want for an emergency to occur to begin preparing. It is easy to build up an emergency supply of extra food. Simply buy a couple of extra cans of a sale item, or an extra bag or two of dry beans every chance you get. Don’t worry about your efforts being “too small”, just get started however you can.

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Grow your own sprouts: cheap fresh veggies

March 17, 2010 • Paige

I love bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts on salads and sandwiches, but I am not going to pay $3 – $5 per package for them.  Right now I’m sprouting things I already have on hand: wheat and lentils, which are almost ready to eat. I think sprouted lentils are my new favorite food.

Growing sprouts is easy. You can sprout dry beans and grains from the grocery store in two to five days in a bowl or jar on your kitchen counter.  Place two or three tablespoons of seeds in a jar.  Rubberband a piece of  netting, mesh, or pantyhose over the mouth as a breathable lid. Rinse the seeds thoroughly, then soak over night.  Drain and rinse, then place the jar on its side in a semi dark place. Rinse and drain every 12 hours to keep mold from forming.   

Sprouts will keep in the fridge for up to six weeks.  They must be rinsed every 7 days and kept dry. Some sprouted beans and grains need to be cooked before eating, but they cook up in half the time. 

Next I’m trying black eyed pea sprouts, black bean sprouts, and brown rice sprouts.  I found this great recipe I want to try, for sprouted beans and rice!  They cook in about half the normal time. Sprouted black beans cook in about 45 minutes.  Sprouted brown rice cooks in about 15 minutes, and requires less water.

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Grow something!

February 23, 2010 • Paige

Last spring was our first try at growing edible plants.  Since we live in a rental, we are growing in containers in lieu of a garden.  On the the front porch we had basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, peppermint, stevia, tomatoes, aloe, and some other random plants.

We got started pretty late and even though we did so many things wrong, there was an abundance of fresh herbs all throughout the summer.  The basil, stevia, thyme were lost to Autumn cold weather.  The aloe plants are still going strong, and the rosemary and peppermint are coming back from their brush with death a bit slowly.

This year I want to do better.  I have saved a few paper egg cartons for starting seeds indoors.  I can get started with that just as soon as I decide what I want to grow. 🙂 This year we’re also going to try our hand at several different kinds of vegetables and small fruits.  I scrounged up some plastic bins to re-purpose as planters.  Hopefully I will be able to harvest and store my herbs, veggies, and fruits this year.

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