Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.
Ayn Rand said that mans primary tool of survival was his mind. I agree with this. Matter o’ fact, I don’t know how anyone couldn’t agree with that. In addition to one’s mind and whatever intelligence it holds, another vital and intangible necessity is information.
I’m sitting here going through my spreadsheets calculating things like projected food supplies, etc, etc. and it occurs to me that many people simply don’t have the information necessary to allow them to best utilize their resources. In short, if you don’t know whats in the fridge you’ll buy the wrong groceries.
Some things we keep track of around here, some we do not. Things we don’t keep track of are non-consumable goods like, say, kerosene heaters. We have two. They generally do not get ‘used up’. They don’t need to be rotated out, they don’t spoil, they aren’t used and need replacing. If I have two kerosene heaters socked away in January of 2008 its almost a certainty they will still be there in January 2009. So..they aren’t inventoried.
Most consumables, especially food, are inventoried. This is simply because the food is used on a day to day basis and a running inventory needs to be kept so that we know what we need when we go shopping. Other consumables include batteries, toiletries, ammo, magazines, lightsticks, etc.
Keeping track is pretty simple. Write up a spreadsheet and keep a copy on your USB drive and a printout with your gear. When you pull a jar of olives out of storage you cross out the quantity on your spreadsheet and write in the new amount. Once a month or so you take your printout to the computer and reconcile it with your spreadsheet. The only difficult part is being diligent about tracking what comes in and what goes out. If you can get a handle on that then youre good to go. It is virtually identical to balancing a checkbook.
When we make a pilgrimage to CostCo, WallyWorld or when the local supermarkets have big sales we’ll check a copy of the spreadsheet and see if any of the things that we need to replace/stock up on are on sale. It really is that easy. Whats cooler is that if, in my wanderings, I stumble across a good deal on something I can call the missus and have her look up if we have plenty of ‘x’ and I can know whether I should pounce on the sale in front of me or not.
Once you have the spreadsheet set up, it’s a simple matter to make a copy of it and use that copy to play ‘what if’..for example, I just ran our stockpile of Mountain House through a spreadsheet to calculate servings per can and use that info to calculate how long our supply would last. Assuming three meals a day for two people, we’d be good for a little over three months. Add in the MRE’s and its another month and a half. Add in the bulk food like corn, wheat, and rice and you add another three months. Fold in the day-to-day food stash (things like canned tuna, spaghetti sauce, canned broth, canned vegetables, etc) and you add another six weeks. When its all said and done its about ten months. Start tweaking numbers, like reducing to two meals a day, etc. returns interesting results. However, none of this is possible if you don’t know what you have.
In addition to this sort of mathematic adventure, having a comprehensive and up-to-date list keeps you from doing bonehead things like buying something you already have. Money is tight enough without wasting it buying something you already have plenty of. (However, to be fair, a lot of times winding up with an ‘extra’ anything isn’t bad unless it keeps you from getting something you really do need.)
Spreadsheets don’t have to be complicated. Mine usually look like this:
[description], [brand], [model], [size], [quantity]
This format works for things like flashlights:
Flashlight, MagLite, MiniMag, 2-AA, 6
Tuna, StarKist, Chunk White, 4 oz., 18
Magazine, Glock, G17, 17-rd, 25
You get the idea, I’m sure. The thing to remember is that these lists are only useful as long as you religiously stick to keeping it current. You cant pull a jar of applesauce off the shelf and not mark it off on the list. Figuring you’ll do it later means it never gets done. I keep a clipboard and pen with our stuff so theres almost no excuse not to quickly put a ‘-1’ next to an item. On the freezer theres a self-adhesive whiteboard and marker so that theres always a current listing of whats in the freezer. Makes it real easy to determine if its worth picking up another couple trays of pork chops when theyre on sale.
Of course, theres also another reason for this sort of attention to detail….when I watch the news and get that feeling of impending doom I can look over my spreadsheets and think “Heck, we’ll be juuuuuuust fine”. And that is a priceless feeling to have.