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Design Your Own First Aid Kit

Many homes have a first aid kit, and if yours was like the one in my family growing up, it was a big mess stuffed into a small container. Some families have smaller kits for their cars, garages, or even their everyday carry gear, and if you’re someone who likes to be prepared for anything, chances are good that at least one of your first aid kits is fairly extensive.

It’s easy to find first aid kits that are already put together, and some of them are fairly affordable. There are all levels of kits as well; you can get a 100-piece FAK on Amazon for under ten bucks, and you can go up to a full paramedic-level kit or higher depending on where you shop and how much you are willing to spend. With all of these options available, why would we be advising you to design your own? 

Every Family is Different

The first reason you should design your own FAKs is that your needs will not be exactly the same as the family down the street or in the next town. There are several different factors you’ll need to think about when putting together a first aid kit, including:

  • What regional or local threats do I need to worry about (spiders, scorpions, snakes, etc.)?
  • What types of injuries or issues could arise from the specific activities my family is involved in?
  • Typically, where would we be if these injuries occurred—halfway up a mountain or at the local ball diamond?
  • What specific medical issues do my family members already have?

The above list isn’t all-inclusive, but it’ll get you started. Does your son have an allergy to bees? You’ll need an EpiPen in your kit. Maybe you or your spouse are diabetic and will need to have some oral glucose or other supplies. Are you all big hiking fans? Moleskin might be a must-have. A family with kids in sports might want to carry a SAM splint or other materials for the breaks and sprains that can happen. 

Sure, you can buy one huge kit that may or may not cover all of it—but you’ll be far better prepared if you have exactly what you and your family need and can pack specific supplies for the activity or location that you’ll be in. 

You Need to Be Intimately Familiar with Your Kit

This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people buy an extensive medical kit only to pronounce themselves prepared after putting it away, only to be frantically digging in it later when they need something and can’t find it. What’s more, your kit might be missing the one thing you need in the moment—even if it has 350 band-aids in sixteen sizes.

If you design your own kit, maintain it, and are doing regular checks on it, you know what’s in there and you know where to find what you need in a few seconds. Sometimes that’s all the time you have.

You Need to Have the Training to Use Your Kit

It’s easy to buy a kit so extensive that you could almost perform an appendectomy on your kitchen floor, but do you have the training to use everything in your kit effectively? Supplies mean nothing if no one in your family is trained on them. If your level of training is somewhere around the level of little to non-existent, then look around in your area for some first aid instruction and get it done. There is no downside to medical training when it comes to protecting your family.

We aren’t saying don’t ever buy a pre-packaged FAK. For the optimum level of preparedness, however, you’ll need to:

  • Understand your family’s needs
  • Understand your level of training
  • Understand your kit itself

Those three things will get you on the path to be a lot better prepared to care for your family in the case of a medical need.

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Replanting: Free Survival Food

If you’re like me, you’ve started poring over the spring seed catalogs long before spring is officially here, choosing new varieties of garden produce to plant. Maybe you’ll be adding a fruit tree or two, or even just sticking to tried-and-true winners for this year’s garden. What if I told you that you could have part of your garden inside all the year through … without buying seeds? It’s called replanting, and it is way easier than you ever thought.

What is Replanting?

With replanting, you’re literally regrowing what’s left of produce you’ve purchased or already harvested. You’d be surprised at how little work it requires to get started or keep going. What’s more, it’s good for the environment as well since you can use compostable items like eggshells as starters.

Not everything can be grown this way, but a lot of things can. I’m currently growing quite the garden in my kitchen bay window, and have already harvested several things, only to have them keep right on growing. The best part is it’s all growing from scraps of fruits and vegetables I either bought at the store or got from neighbors. Let’s take a closer look at how to do it. Chances are you can start today with things already in your fridge.

Green Onions

This might be the easiest of all, and it’s the one I started with. Simply take the white bulb part, going up about 2″, and snip it off. Use the green part as usual, and then take the bulb end and place it in about an inch of water. The onions will start growing right out of the cut off stem, and you’ll see visible growth in only three days or so. It takes about two weeks to be able to harvest them again, and after that time you put them in a container to keep growing.

Celery

The same principle applies to getting fresh celery. Just take the bunch you bought at the store, cut off the bottom three inches (the “butt”) and put it in water about 1.5″ deep. You’ll see growth in only a few days. After two weeks, I planted mine in an empty coffee container with some holes in the bottom to let excess water drain out.

Potatoes

I cannot count the number of times I’ve snagged those old, forgotten potatoes from the back of the pantry, cut them into pieces that have an eye or two each, and planted them in a container only to get a nice little trove of fresh new potatoes. These go right into a large container filled about only 4″ deep. Once the plants are about 8″ high, I add six more inches of soil, and when they reach 8″ again, I add six more inches of soil. Then I let them grow until they’re done. Instead of only a few potatoes at the end, I have layers and layers of them. This is best done in a 5-gallon bucket but can be done in anything really, as long as it’s deep enough.

Peppers

Peppers are full of seeds, and you can simply use half of the pepper as a kind of built-in planter. Fill it with soil, spray with water, and put the pepper half in a sunny windowsill. After about two weeks, just put the pepper and all in a pot and cover with soil.

The Downsides

There are a few things to know when replanting. If you’re set on having heirloom varieties, this probably isn’t the right way to go for you.  You’re essentially just regrowing whatever you bought at the grocery store.

It also won’t be a good replacement for a full garden during your zone’s growing season. Unless you have a lot of sunny windows, you may be limited in how much you can grow.

The good news is that both of these downsides can be mitigated. If you’re already growing a garden outside every year, you can use replanting to extend the growing season and keep some fresh veggies and herbs long after your outdoor garden is covered in snow. If your garden is made up of heirloom plants, then that’s what you’ll get back in replanting.

If you have room in your home to hang or stand a few grow lights, then sunlit windows become much less of an issue as well. You can expand to however many lights you have.

Instead of throwing your vegetable scraps away, composting them all, or even throwing them to your chickens, try replanting. You might be surprised at how easy — and effective — it is.

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Survival Food: Buy or DIY?

Storing food is the cornerstone of prepping for all sorts of disasters or emergencies. Out here in Montana, it’s right up there with firewood for winter importance. Survival food can also keep your family secure during times of financial hardship as well.

Food storage comes in all flavors, too; you can buy meal kits, bulk freeze-dried, or even pack and can your own after hunting, gardening, or even raising some meat. If you’re just starting out with prepping or looking to make it through a bad winter, you might be wondering what direction is best for you and your family. If you’ve already started storing up food, you might be looking for a good way to diversify your stock. Let’s talk options.

Pre-Made Meal Kits

Pros: Convenience, ease of storage
Cons: Price, possible quality concerns

Several vendors sell prepared survival food kits that only require heat and water to use. They come packaged for long-term storage with a variety of foods. It’s by far the most convenient option; you simply buy and store.

Prices vary widely depending on the quantity, quality and type of food. Mountain House (non-sponsored link), for instance, produces meals that are widely regarded as some of the highest quality you can buy with incredibly long shelf lives; their prices, however, are often reflective of that quality.

On the other hand, highly affordable long-term food storage can also come with some negatives. Make sure that what might seem like a great deal actually provides you with enough caloric intake to survive for the amount of time the manufacturer claims.

Before choosing to purchase any ready-made meal kits, make sure to research more than just the price; look at ingredients, length of storability, quantity and calorie load in each meal.

DIY Long-Term Storage

Pros: Knowing what you’re getting, lower cost
Cons: Limited use, requirement to use it all after opening

Another option is to get some 5-gallon buckets, oxygen absorbers and mylar bags, and pack your own survival food storage. This is best for staple goods like corn, wheat, rice or beans.  You can buy the supplies fairly cheaply at a number of vendors online, and if you’ve done it yourself you know exactly what the quality and quantity is. The downside is that once you open the bucket, you’ll need to have a plan to use all of the contents in a short timeframe.

Before deciding to take the plunge and do your own, you’ll want to do some cost analysis, and be honest with yourself about what you’ll use. If you aren’t a fan of beans today, for instance, it’s not an effective use of your supplies, time or money to start prepping them in huge quantities.

Canning Options

Pros: Low cost, wide range of recipes and options available
Cons: Shorter storage time

Home canning is a time-honored method of putting food aside. Done correctly, it can provide you with hundreds of foods, including jams, meats, vegetables and even some desserts. It’s easy to learn, and while it requires the biggest time commitment, it also arguably offers the highest return on your investment — especially if you have your own garden. With a few solid sessions of canning, you can eat fresh food both in and out of season.

The best way to maximize your home canning is to put up foods you’ll eat, use food that you’ve grown or raised yourself, and rotate your stock, eating your oldest food first. Canned food can last at least 18 months; many experienced home canners say it can last far longer than that if you’ve performed the process correctly.

Conclusion

You may choose one of the listed methods above, or a variety of them. What’s best for you and your family might be different than your neighbors or friends. It all comes down to what you can afford, and what you’re willing to do. Regardless of your chosen method, however, whatever you stock now can help you later.

This article was originally posted at Springfield Armory’s blog, The Armory Life.