This wasn't always the case. I grew up in the 80's and 90's and my generation has become the WalMart Generation. If you want something, go buy it. It's so easy to believe in the safety and security of society. We send money to charities, that give food, water, and clothes to those starving kids we see over in war torn, impoverished countries. Those countries that graduates of our stellar public education system cannot pronounce, spell, or find on a map. Yup, THOSE countries...
I served in the military, and believe you me, they are prepared. Unfortunately, for most members of the military, we received the traditional "three hots and a cot" and spend an insane amount of money on beer, a new car, cool toys and the like, with little thought given to personal preparedness (Uncle Sam did it for us, and our only contribution was being "prepared" to go when and where he sent us).
Flash forward to America of today. The great country that has been the cornerstone of the world economy for the better part of a century. The military giant, defender of the world (whether the world wants it or not). We have electricity, running water, sanitation/sewer, a WalMart on every corner, and a couple of gas stations across the street from those. Coffee to get us going, fast food to facilitate perpetual going ("going" in more ways than one if you eat that junk) and pills to stop us fast so we can get up the next day and start over. Don't forget the police, the fire department, social services, our health care, and you have the great country that can overcome any adversity thrown our way, unlike those unpronounceable countries on maps right?
Rodney King riots, Hurrican Katrina, Debt ceiling debates with threat of default, $5/gallon gas, massive unemployment, gold prices skyrocketing, jobs exported, and whatever else you can read five times a night on the evening news... ring a bell?
So I support a four-pronged approach to preparedness:
1. Food and water
2. Guns and ammunition
3. Precious metals
4. Physical fitness.
I'll talk about the last three briefly, as they are for other topics.
First, guns and ammunition - self defense, plain and simple (well that, and the founding fathers felt it was the citizens "check and balance" of the other three branches of government). You need firearms, to protect you food, water, precious metals, and property.
Second, Precious metals - our fiat currency (money that is essentially only worth what the powers that be tell us it is) that can be printed when our government needs to spend more than it has, is a ponzi scheme. It is only a matter of time before the dollar goes the way of the British Sterling as the world reserve currency. When that happens, having some silver and gold coins, in a wide variety of forms (bullion, older coins that were still made of silver, jewelry, etc) will go a long way in preserving your wealth. And heck, if everything fixes itself and goes all hunky-dory, then you have a cool collection of coins and stuff to pass onto your kids when you are done with it as hobby value.
Thrid, Physical Fitness - I used to be the epitome of fitness... baseball, volleyball, weight lifting, swimming, running; I did it all for fun. Military service? Check. Now I spend all day working a 12 hour day or night shift, sitting at a panel watching gages, charts, instruments, etc. I've gradually become a sedentary middle-age adult on medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol. My wife and I decided to get into better shape. At the time of this blog, she has lost 55 lbs and I am down 10 lbs, and we walk 3-4 miles a day! We aren't talking military combat fitness, just get out and do something for an hour or so every day, to be active and reap the rewards!
Ok, those are done... NOW onto the food and water storage.
You can see on my blog, on the top-right of page, a link to BePrepared.com (and yes, its a mutually beneficial arrangement... I get a $10 gift card to their website for putting it there). I figured it was easier than putting a link to every grocery store, blog, forum and whatever other site it would take to get people to start reading up on food storage.
And now, again, mutually beneficial, I will get another $10 gift card for posting this review of their food storage calculator!
Basically, their calculator (reachable by clicking the button below) is a webpage where you can enter how much food you have, in what form, and then after you enter the age, gender, and number of people you plan to feed, it calculates how many days of food it will provide, based on USDA recommended caloric intake for those people you listed.
It definitely had some benefits, like showing you a breakdown of nutritional information of your daily diet based on what you claim to have stored. Mine showed me that my wife and I were taking in 230% of our recommended daily sodium based on our preps, so something for us to adjust there.
Another convenience, and I think this is the main point of this program, is you can prepare an order as you are entering your preps. You enter in the food you have (say a #10 can of dehydrated strawberries) and if you want two more cans, you simply add a "2" in the column next to what you have, in the "your next order" category.
Also, I really liked the fact that if you didn't see what you had, or what form it was in, you have a tab you can go to, to add items yourself. It requires a bit of effort on your part, to copy the nutritional information off the label, into the program, but what someone sees as effort, another sees as becoming familiar and aware with what you are eating.
Once you are done putting all your information in, the "My Pantry" tab summarizes everything you entered, with a "-" or "+" to add or remove it. You can print your list from there if you like.
The major weakness of this program, is the fact that I think most of us, who shop at WalMart, Sam's Club, Costco, or our local farmers market, will wind up filling in ALOT of information manually. The intent of the program is of course, aimed at generating sales through their website, so you cannot really fault them for this, but it could be made a bit more user friendly, if say, since we already know the general nutritional value of white rice, if we could simply put in the number of pounds we have of it, without having to go into their "add your own items" tab.
I personally would rather just type in "white rice" on a search feature, and have it prompt me for how many pounds I have. Then, after that step, display a list of all the items they sell, that could substitute for my entry (white rice, brown rice, jasmine rice, minute rice, etc) for me to choose from, to add to my order.
Lastly, it would be nice if you could access the calculator as a guest, and not have to sign in (something about OpSec - Operational Security... not wanting to advertise what you have, and having it stored on a file in a computer where it could be hacked, accessed, stolen, etc). Basically, it's not THAT big of a deal, but since we make a list, then give our credit card information, then a mailing address for food to be delivered to (not just a billing address) it could make a few people uncomfortable about putting their information out there (such is the world we live in today).
Overall, it seems like I spent more time on the negatives than the positives, but really, the things this program does right, are already right and were nice to skim across. The things I thought needed improving, well, I figure if I talk them up some, maybe others will agree when they go use this program, and the feedback we generate might be implemented.
Very well executed idea by the people at Emergency Essentials/BePrepared.com!