Featured Article #44: Casio Digital Camera review

Product Review: Casio Elixim Digital Camera is a Quality Camera

By Chad Robert Parker

If you are looking at buying a quality camera for casual use, this quick review is for you.

Time to buy a camera?

I have been in need of a quality camera for a long time. Recently I was gifted a Casio Elixim Digital Camera, and could not be more pleased. In my excitement, I have had several opportunities to test out all of the features of importance to me. Gone are my former hassles with outdated cameras and poor quality photos (if they turned out at all). You are going to love this camera, too.

Comparing camera needs

You will need to consider my camera needs compared to your own needs, when reading my review. However, I am probably as close to the average person you will find. If you are like me, your goal isn’t to become the best photographer: you just want all the basics, you want the basics to work well, and you want to be able to jump right in without much of a learning curve. The Casio Elixim Digital Camera is just that: a great entry-level camera.

Sleek & slim design

If you don’t like to tote around a massive amount of anything when you go anywhere, you will like the Casio Elixim’s sleek design (about one inch wide but long enough to balance and handle taking great photo’s) with a handy carrying case that slips onto your belt.

All the standards of modern camera convenience

I tested out a more expensive Sony Cybershot today and the Casio matched it in every way I could tell (or desire): with 1) a comparable viewing screen in back; 2) a nice menu to navigate; 3) quality photos (the zoom-in is good); 4) a neat video taking capability; 5) an easily inserted rechargeable battery; 6) a good 1 GB of memory card; 7) a nice USB port that transfers images simply to your computer (and products like Adobe Photoshop); 8) a place to screw in a tripod, if desired. Both cameras were equipped with all these standard modern eases of today’s digital camera technologies, but the main perk to a Casio Elixim was again, its even more slimmed down practicality. Unless you are a professional photographer, I’m assuming amateurs will prefer the Casio Elixim mostly because we prefer the least amount of bulk in the camera equipment we have to lug around, without losing quality to comparable cameras like the Sony Cybershot.

Highly Recommended

There you go: a quick review of the advantages of buying a Casio Elixim digital camera. I hope you find the affordability, the reliability, and the tote-ability to be all you need to enjoy capturing memories, uploading images on your computer or getting them printed out at a place like Costco, and maybe even creating projects (like pictures to go with Associated Content articles) or blogging. Whatever the pastime, I’m sure there are a lot of great digital cameras out there that would meet your needs; the Casio Elixim digital camera is the one I have had enough exposure with to recommend; it is meeting my needs for clear and sharp photo images.

Featured Article #43: Insignia Portable DVD Player review

Product Review: Is an Insignia Portable DVD Player worth buying?

By Chad Robert Parker

Buying brand names puts a greater emphasis on quality. When considering a pair of pants you might find something that looks just as nice and then get lucky that it doesn’t wear out too quickly. But does that philosophy work with a more significant purchase, like buying a digital item?

When looking for a portable DVD player you may be concerned that unless you invest in a costly purchase you risk it breaking, or then again, you might consider Insignia. I’ll explain. Though I can’t make any guarantees, to my pleasant surprise an Insignia portable DVD player measures up in all areas of importance for me.

In truth, while I was in the market for a DVD player, I would have bought a reliable brand like, Sony, or a decent brand I had at least heard of, like Emerson. But when I had the choice of a promotional item between an iPod and a portable DVD player, with the purchase of my car a couple years back, I went with the DVD player. Like I said, I was in the market. I know, most of you would have taken the iPod, but with all the DVDs I own and love, I was hooked. Besides the car I was buying has a CD player, and my music investment has been geared toward owning CDs not mp3s, anyway. But, you say, it’s not like I could watch the DVD player in my car. Good point!

Nonetheless, if a couple passengers in your car get to watch the DVD player, they’ll love you. No need to buy that gas hog mini-van or SUV just yet. As long as you can settle on one move, the Insignia Portable DVD player comes with two screens. The screens can be strapped to the back of the captain chairs for viewers in the backseat, or held on a lap, if one person wanted to watch from a front seat while the other watched from the back, for instance. The DVD player comes with two sets of headphones, which is optimal, as road noise can be a little much. Although if the driver doesn’t mind the movie noise, the sound through the outer speakers can also be sufficient. If people who are not watching the movie are talking in a closed car setting, one feature (besides head phones) that comes in handy is selecting subtitles from the menu, at the start of your movie. While the kit has an adapter to plug into the cigarette lighter of the car, there is also an AC adapter to plug into the wall at home. Everything comes in a great compact size portable case.

I have found that Insignia has met or surpassed all my needs in a portable DVD player. With all the great options we want to buy during the digital age, it is nice to find one that is also affordable. I give the product high marks for clarity in playback, for quality sound, for great lightweight portability with all necessary accessories, and for a design with tilt screens and a solid nesting for DVDs to be used for years to come. If your experience mirrors mine, you can be confident in going out and buying one today.

Or stay home and make the purchase online, given the digital capabilities available today, although then again, my review of the Insignia portable DVD player should not be held accountable for damage in transit, either. Some recommend that electronics be bought in person, and after my last electronic purchase, I can certainly understand why. The package containing a Sony Playstation, bought on eBay, arrived while I was away. I signed a note saying the UPS man could leave it on my doorstep, but with good intentions I’m sure, he threw it over my balcony instead. At least it was in working order. I guess the sender bubble-wrapped it well enough. But if I were you, I wouldn’t take the chance. Find a nice store, like Walmart or Target that carries Insignia DVD portable players, and you may even be able to test one out yourself before buying it.

Featured Article #42: Timelife Music Collections review

Product Review: Are Timelife Music Collection’s for you?

(Great CDs vs. Personalized mp3s)

By Chad Robert Parker

I purchased a 6 CD set from Timelife Music through its website. You may be considering a collection as seen on tv. Will you like what you buy?

Timelife has been putting together collections of music in many different genres. You won’t find some of your favorite songs playing as often on the radio anymore. You could gather all of your favorite hits, one song at a time, but why, if Timelife has already done it for you?

The Love Songs Collection

I’m one for popular love songs. I know it’s cheesy. There are so many radio stations devoted to saps like me. Sappy love stories highlighted by Delilah, a famous radio announcer today, are not why I tune in, though. It is for the songs. It is for the greatest emotion of human experience. It is for the dream that music of such conviction and devotion will play like on a movie screen in a way that we can envision and relate to in our very own lives. Okay, so maybe I haven’t convinced you to love the genre I love, but even if you don’t like the ballads of popular love songs, you may want to check out Timelife.com to see what assortment of music may already be compiled there for you. My next target is something with a little more beat and liveliness, like their Rock Collection from the 80s.

Collecting music CDs or mp3s in general

I’ve found that the pricing on the CD sets advertised on TV does not vary a whole lot. Essentially you are getting each song for under a dollar. You could buy the songs individually on iTunes, Musicbox, or another outlet for mp3s. These could easily be burned onto CDs, if you wanted. Your main drawback may very well be that you have an mp3 player, and no use for a CD player anymore. That’s understandable. If the only reason you don’t use your CD player is because you don’t have a CD or two with enough good music, this is a more common downfall. CDs cut have a few good songs, if that, and a lot of songs that people just don’t want. That is where the music industry has had so many disputes with sharing music. The music bands, singers, and producers rightfully want consumers to pay for any music we own, but the problem is that they sell us a lot of songs we don’t want piggy-backing material along with songs we do want, or else we can expect to be charged a per song rate that adds up very quickly. Either way, it costs a bundle to get a good collection of music. There is little room for good deals, but a good collection of songs like Timelife can provide does reduce the cost by a fraction. Mainly though, it just helps you save time, if you can find a collection as quality as you would have collected by yourself.

I know burning CDs from mp3 files downloaded, would have been of lesser quality, and may have been detrimental to my computer as use of the Internet to download opens up the possibility of viruses, but I’m not so sure I couldn’t have compiled a better assortment of music than the Timelife music set I acquired has. I may hold off on the Rock ballads of the 80’s, yet. As I listen to the CDs more and more, the songs that I would have excluded from the get go, kind of bother me. Even though it would cost the full dollar to replace those songs in the rotation, I think my CDs would have done more to complete me. C’est la vie!

Just as I don’t have time to listen to sappy commentary and commercials in between my songs, I don’t know that I have time to create a better collection anyway. The question is: do you (for the minimal money saved, and the minor annoyance that some songs are never to your personalized liking and you end up skipping over these)?




Featured Article #41: Disney Club removes the worry of a monthly club

Product Review: Disney Club removes worry of joining a monthly club

By Chad Robert Parker

If you want to become a Disney Movie Club member, but you are afraid that it is too good to be true, I’ve got good news for you.

I’ve been told the horror stories of joining book or movie clubs. Once they get you started, they hold you in with fine print. You thought you were only obligated to buy certain things for a given length of time, and then when you go to cancel your subscription they won’t let you. That may be true, and is true, for some monthly subscription clubs. Even joining on a trial basis for free can catch you unaware of other obligations that quickly kick in. With much trepidation I took the bait with the Disney Club.

Disney is not without its tricks. So many of Disney’s productions are in the vault, only released at certain times and only for a limited time. But if you haven’t built up a significant collection of Disney movies and you are interested in doing so, the Disney Club is the way to do it. When you look over an advertisement, for example, offering 4 DVDs for 99 cents and a 5th one at regular price as an introductory bargain for joining the club, that is a pretty good deal all by itself. Of course, as clearly stated, the catch is that you are now obligated to monthly purchases. It’s not a monthly fee per say, but you will need to be ready to buy a movie of your choosing each month. Keep track each month or Disney will send you their feature, usually a generic second or third movie in a series you don’t want, unless you opt out of that choice by making a choice of your own. No worries, there are several good movies to choose from. And then another rule is that you must make purchases for a given amount of months before you can cancel the club altogether. I found that I wanted to buy much more than I was obligated to each month, and I think Disney has full confidence that their product is good enough to have this affect on more than just me. By the time I had my collection built up, they were likely just as satisfied as I was. They had no problem letting me opt out once I had met the terms, and there was no fine print or other twist to it. Just be sure you don’t allow your year membership to renew, unless you want it to, or else you will find yourself repeating the terms for another year.

Featured Article #40: Verizon Ad Campaign Success

Phone Service Review: How Verizon beats competition with 3 ad campaigns

By Chad Robert Parker

Is the divide between cell phone companies that great? Or is that just a perception?

If you think about the last phone commercial you saw, it was probably a Verizon ad. They know that coverage is the biggest deciding factor. Their catchy “can you hear me now” commercials are everywhere, and supposedly so is their service. I was selling pest control in California when that first commercial was cast—another salesman on our team nearly got the role. The funny thing is, my T-mobile service, at that time was much better received in Canyon Country and other hilly valleys of California than his Verizon was able to pick up signals. Yet, Verizon does better in a wider array of locations. Verizon and T-mobile are about equal in different areas of coverage here in Utah. But give the edge to Verizon for image, due to their advertising.

All the phone services have similar gimmicks that frustrate attempts to buy out and switch providers: contracts, free phone offers, and etc. But Verizon builds on the coverage motif and struck it rich with another selling point in their ad campaigns. Verizon’s “friends and family” racket brings in the phone plans through groups of people. Here is where families decide that, as a group that mainly calls each other, Verizon becomes the best option. More people have Verizon anyway throughout the nation. Other phone companies, such as T-mobile, have this feature to—though it is also not marketed as well—but its main issue goes back to coverage, being more in localized pockets. Phones cover great distances between family and/or friends and since Verizon can boast coverage in most areas, even families in more remote areas—where another service may have more towers and more bars—resort to Verizon knowing that more of their contacts are likely to have Verizon. The “more bars” campaign is losing out.

The last ad campaign employed by Verizon is “the network.” Other companies surely don’t leave you stranded without any access to help, but Verizon emphasizes it. If you go into a Verizon store they will reconfigure your phone, transfer numbers, or help in anyway they can. T-mobile is helpful too, for example, but not so hands on. Their biggest fix is drying out phones that have fallen into the toilet, which you are basically out of luck when that happens anyway. Whereas Verizon makes it standard practice to do for its customers what they could do on their own in a multiplicity of instances.


Featured Article #39: Progressive vs. Geico

Insurance Review: Progressive vs. Geico Insurance is about the money

By Chad Robert Parker

Growing up, my favorite computer game was Carwars. When you think of Texas Instruments (TI) you may think of calculators, but I think of Carwars (played on a game console before Atari came out). But now car wars is how I refer to car insurances.

It’s not that I had any real issues with Geico Insurance over the past 7 years. It’s just the irony of having to pay so much money toward a service when you have no choice but to have insurance, regardless of whether or not I ever use the service. Geico came to the rescue when I hit that deer. Well, they were there to take my phone call at 3 o’clock in the morning and even arranged to call tow service to come to our aid. Some accidents can’t be avoided, so when the car was totaled and money offered in its place, but not enough to make up for the loss, your not sure if the money you were spending toward insurance would have better covered that and some. Oh well, rainy day saving is not an option—a legal alternative to car insurance. Frankly I liked Geico’s coverage. I liked their service. I liked everything but the price. So I switched to progressive. As near as I can tell I get everything I would with Geico, but for a lesser bill. I checked. The coverages match up. And believe it or not, the people on the phone are just as nice and willing to help if called upon.

Both car insurances offer free rock chip repair under my comprehensive coverage, my only other standard fix, given all the construction and gravel trucks on the road. But they both keep track of the claims made and a little too touchy for me to make such insignificant claims. I just pay for that repair on the side for like $10, whereas when I tested out having it charged to the insurance, through their chosen provider, the insurance was charged $180. No wonder the insurance companies get uppity about some claims. But the point is that there isn’t a stark contrast between how either company handles these types of claims. Again, it is about the money just to carry the insurance, because all other things seem equal.

The strange thing is that Geico’s googley-eyed mascot isn’t saving me money. Progressive is. All State, American Family, State Farm, Countrywide and others all offer basically the same services, but say they can do it for less money. But I didn’t find anyone who is doing significantly better on that claim than Geico, except Progressive (and maybe Countrywide).

Featured Article #38: Iron Gym Review

5 Point Product Review: Will Iron Gym get you fit?

Results as seen on TV are often much better as seen on TV. But I won’t hold that against the Iron Gym. If you are wondering about the real possibilities for your body workout, I can brief you on the advantages and disadvantages to buying Iron Gym with my 5-point review: affordability, set-up, durability, capability, and flexibility.

  1. Affordability

The Iron Gym is inexpensive. If you want to use a pull-up bar outside your home, it will generally cost more in gas alone to get to a place where you can do a workout; not to mention how a gym or a club will usually cost you membership fees. If you are serious about getting in shape, toning, or strength training, a pull-up bar is a staple in workout routines.

  1. Set-up

The Iron Gym can be purchased to be shipped to your door, which is pretty convenient (I got mine through Bed Bath & Beyond’s as seen on TV section). It is simple to put together. There is reasonable assembly involved in putting together a few bars out of a box. Tools, nuts, and bolts are all provided. It doesn’t take long to have it latch up in one of your doorways, though. Just make sure you have a doorway with enough head clearance to the ceiling above (My condo only has one such doorway).

  1. Durability

The Iron Gym is sturdy and as trustworthy as your doorway (Doorways are firmly encased by 2 x 4’s, so it is a strong fit). It appears to be designed better than other pull-up contraptions for doorways, that I have come across (In college). It has a wide base, a lot of surface area, a sturdy metal, and good padded areas for practical use.

  1. Capability

The Iron Gym comes as advertised. At least every exercise on advertised can be done and a great workout can be obtained, as pull-up bars go. You can do a few types of pull-ups depending on your handholds. You can hang from it (wish I had the free hanging straps that come with some offers) while doing leg lifts (while twisting your stomach if you want a good burn to work on that side flab). You can even do dips or push-ups with the Iron Gym set on the ground. If there is a disadvantage, it is that the Iron Gym can’t do things with regard to what it is not (There are other tools for other exercises).

  1. Flexibility

The Iron Gym can easily be put up in the doorway, used on the floor, or stored away. It can even be broken down quickly for packing and reassembled as needed.

It has not taken me long to see real benefits to using the Iron Gym. In combination with running for the legs and cardiovascular, an exercise ball to work the core, and the Iron Gym for upper body, you can develop a great routine for any level of focus to a full body workout. It met or exceeded all of my expectations. What you see on TV is what you get with this product. It’s not like you would expect anything less in a portable pull-up bar, than I have outlined here, but it is just nice when something you see hyped up on a TV advertisement, measures up. Iron Gym does! Now that I’ve got my pull-up bar it’s time to look into P90X.

Featured Article #37: Introduction: Deciding on laying Carpet, Tile, or Hardwood floors?

Introduction: Deciding on laying Carpet, Tile, or Hardwood floors?

Home Improvement Basics & Practical Advice for your floor space

You may be surprised that you are capable of laying carpet, tile, or a hardwood floor.

My experience is rudimentary at best. Still I have been involved in all three of these types of floor projects. My intention is not to instruct on all of the elements of any one of these processes; but rather it is to give a basic understanding of what you can expect to encounter in laying floor: be it carpet, tile, or wood.

Laying Carpet

If you would like to carpet an area, my first suggestion is to just get it done professionally. They have the tools, the expertise, and the backs for it. Laying carpet is not fun work. However, in principal it is not the most difficult trade. Pulling up old carpet has more to do with grunt work than it does tools. You don’t need any expertise taking it out. Get a crowbar in under a place of the carpet, like where the carpet meets a vinyl or tile floor, or if you have to, where it meets the wall. Pry some carpet up and start pulling. Tack boards were placed around the borders of the room; these need to be pulled up too (don’t get poked by the tacks and nails). Scrape the floor clean of any areas where glue has particularly stuck the padding or carpet, or made rough places on the floor. Now the room is prepped for new carpet. New tack board strips must be laid down. These get nailed in with a good cement hammer. You will want to get further instruction for laying the carpet properly, but the idea is to measure well, roll it out and cut the angles, and with the right tools stretch and stick it into place. Again, pulling carpet was worth the savings but laying it is a whole new hassle.

Laying Tile

Tiling is easier than it would seem with the right tools (a good wet saw makes a lot of difference). Linoleum doesn’t even need to be pulled up. You mix the puddy to the right consistency; you cut tile as needed; you lay the tile and insert removable plastic dividers; and you grout it, wait for it to dry, and wipe it clean. You should lay the tile, having made necessary cuts, first. Before you’ve done any real damage you will already have a great idea of what your new floor is going to look like. If you have a toilet in the area you are tiling, you will want to remove the toilet and tile under it. This will make things a little trickier, but it will be satisfying to get the job done right with professional results. The beehive wax should be replaced to ensure no leaking occurs. It is not worth trying to salvage it for a cheap replacement. Look further into tiling; you can do this one.

Laying a Hardwood Floor

My least experience of the three types of floors is hardwood floors. I have never taken one out or put one in. But I have seen it done by a novice or two who were just reading the instructions off of the box.

Much of putting in a hardwood floor has to do with following directions. There are a few different patterns depending on the flooring you will be using. You will want to pay attention to the instructions given specifically for the materials you buy. Some wood flooring fits together by snapping in place while others mesh together. If you find you have to make several cuts to tailor the wood flooring to your needs, you are either covering a uniquely angled space or you are likely doing something wrong. You will want to place as much of the flooring in place as you would like to see it, before actually setting any of the wood flooring in place. If you do this, and cuts will need to be made, you will know where these need to be done first off. Adhesives that may be used in the process are very effective, so you will want to plan things out well. Ask your local Home Depot expert for advice on different wood floor installations.

A review of the overview

Again, my overview is only intended to give you a preview of what to expect. The first time you will want to solicit better step-by-step instructions. But if you have decided what would be perfect in the flooring space of your place, now you just have to decide if it is worth it to take on the challenge yourself, or if you should relinquish the job to the labors of the professionals. I have tried to give some insight into that decision.

All of these home improvements can be worth the expense—given the potential increase in the resale value—even during tough economic times. Just be sure to pick your project wisely. A fresh coat of paint on a wall, for example, brings in much more money than it costs, whereas repairing holes in walls is not usually a smart quick turn around type purchase. In review, tile goes a long ways for the effort. Wood floor goes farther but requires a little more doing. Both are worth the trouble. Carpeting, however, though often necessary, is not usually worth the do-it-yourself mentality.

Featured Article #36: Introduction to Canning (peaches, pears, applesauce)

Try Peaches, Pears, and Applesauce: Nothing’s like homemade fruits you canned

By Chad Robert Parker

A few good days of preserving food in jars makes for many days of better food to eat throughout the year, allowing even more convenience than we realize. It isn’t as hard to do, as we make it out to be, either. Here’s an introduction to canning:

A little preparation goes a long ways. The excuse for not loading up our pantries with the food we need has been one of convenience. We lead busy lives sure, but the reality is not that we don’t have time for canning, but that we don’t know how. Learning how and then devoting a chunk of time to it will be well worth the many times you will access its wares later.

Canning vs Store bought canned fruit

On a daily basis we really don’t have time to make food. Many of us don’t even make a nice meal anymore. When we stock up on groceries, we don’t want to buy perishable items. We rely on processed foods (with lots of msg, for example, to preserve things), if we need an item with a good shelf life at all. And we cook out of a box or eat out more often than we want to admit. If this is the case for you, then canning may provide better options than you would subscribe to on a regular basis in your normal eating habits.

Don’t feel bad if this applies to you, because being the bachelor that I am, this is exactly how it can work out for me at times. Like me, you probably know how to cook or you wouldn’t have looked at this article before worrying about cooking, but the grocery store has made the quick meal so convenient that you got away from making real food. Though our parents may, or may not have, taught us the trade of cooking, most of our parents have not passed on our grandparent’s trade of canning. But a hard day’s work of canning makes for easy trips to the pantry—a lot easier than several trips to the grocery store for inferior canned fruit in the long run. Here’s where it gets interesting:

Canning fruit together bridges generations

When my parents became “empty nesters,” they realized that their children’s families could gain from learning canning. It was something of real value: knowledge that they could give to us, bring the families together in working together, and of course include the grandkids on something where everyone was involved. Of course, canning proved to be hard work, and the ideals of the situation were sometimes overshadowed in those few days, but the goodness of that canned fruit does not go unnoticed as a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. Here’s some basics I picked up to help other beginners to get started:

What you will need:

The first matter of importance is obtaining the proper equipment. Sorry I don’t know the technical terms: 1) get a nice sized cauldron and a huge pot for the stove (pressurized cookers); 2) buy a gas heating cooker/stove; 3) buy a dipper tray tool that holds the jars; 4) buy an apple sauce squisher and probably an apple corer/slicer; 5) be sure to have several hot pads and towels handy; 6) then buy yourself several 10-ounce (preferably wide mouth) jars. It’s really not too much to consider, but you will need these things to begin canning. The basic premise here is that like making anything else, you will need the proper tools. Don’t skimp!

What you need to do:

For peaches, pears, or apples, you should slice them in eighths.

For apples, set the slices in a covered pot on the stove to boil. When the apples are mushy, drain the water, then scoop slices into the applesauce squisher and run them through. Discard the peels, but place the applesauce into jars. Add sugar and cinnamon.

For peaches and pears, boil them, remove peels, and cut up, then scoop the slices into jars. Add sugar water.

Now screw the caps tight onto the containers. To pressure seal your jars for long-term preservation, input jars into dipper tray tool into the pressure cooker cauldron, and heat at a high boiling temperature for about 20 minutes. Remove carefully with a hot pad and place jars on towels on the counter too cool.

This is just a basic article to wet your appetite and introduce you to how easy it can be. If you aren’t canning with someone who has canned before, you will want to follow more prescribed instructions. I found a more in-depth link to preserving peaches in jars on e-how.com, for instance.


Featured Article #35: Food Storage Emergency Preparedness

Food Storage: having all you need when you need it

In a Recession you naturally consider what excessive wants you can live without, but food shouldn’t be one of them. In fact, it is essential to maintain all your daily needs, whether they are food, water, clothing, or shelter. Food storage is the preparation necessary to have all you need when you need it. You should prepare for anything from the 72-hour emergency, to a couple months, or even two years.

Sure, manage your budget to live within your means and out of debt; start saving some money toward a rainy day fund; but rather than stuffing paper under your mattress like resulted from the Great Depression, be sure to organize at least some of your savings toward inevitable future necessities, by building up your food storage. You can rotate through your food supply if you do it right—by simply buying food that you like to eat and know how to prepare. Don’t be afraid to advance your knowledge on subjects such as grinding wheat and being able to make bread. Food storage will prepare you in ways that extra money could not. You may have daily needs beyond what is suggested here, but here are the basics:

Basically the goal is always to have enough water, a few meals, and a change of clothes:

72-hour emergency for one person (even your college student can prepare one)

Fill one trash bag (to keep things weatherproofed) with all food necessities: plenty of water (1 gal/day), a few cans of soup/chili/stew, a can of fruit, a good box of strike-able matches, a roll of toilet paper, and another trash bag (for the actual trash). You should also include utensils (can opener, etc.), a tool with a knife, and a small first-aid kit (containing bandages, anti-septic, head-ache medicine, and other basics you see fit). Store it in your food storage area such as a pantry or closet.

You may want to have a backpack handy there with your food storage as well, or available in your car where it may be more useful with other accompanying survival items: an emergency blanket, granola bars, a flashlight, batteries, extra clothes and walking/hiking shoes.

Two month period for an average family

You will need plenty of water (16-gallon jugs of water and also 8 24-packs of 16-ounce water bottles or any equivalent). Plan on it. You will not regret having enough water.

You will need meat and/or protein (like 20 cans of tuna, 12 cans of meat [chicken or beef], 20 cans of beans [whichever kind you like], 2 bottle of peanut butter [or 2 16-ounce cans of nuts], 12 cans of chili, 16 cans of ravioli/stew/soups).

You will need fruits and vegetables (like 20 cans of mixed vegetables, 40 more cans of your choice, and also 30 cans of fruits of your choosing).

You will need grains and cereal (like 20 packages of instant rice/pasta/or potatoes, 16 boxes of cereal, 2 20-pound bags of rice, 6 24-ounce spaghetti with 6 16-ounce cans of sauce, and 4 24-ounce tubs of oatmeal.

Thank goodness for bottled and canned goods.

Basically you will want to have items for a balanced diet. That means you may want to include dry milk with your cereal. I know I suggested that as much as possible you only store food you will eat or drink—because even in dire need you might not eat certain things—but I think you would agree that dry milk mixed in water is better than straight water for your cereal. It wouldn’t hurt to rotate your food storage before items expire—instead of dashing off to the grocery store as soon as supplies are low—just to test out whether your food storage is edible enough to survive off of.

One or Two year food supply

If you have prepared a 72-hour kit and storage for a two-month period you have the foundation for proper food storage. You are better prepared than the vast majority for to survive over several weeks. Now you just need to incrementally build on that base so that when your own financial struggles extend for a year or more, like our current economy has already inflicted on many, you will be sustained during those times. At least have two weeks of fresh water per person stored.

Building food storage of one or two years will depend largely on your tastes. You should focus on forming a healthy base of foods that can be used to make a variety of meals. One-gallon cans may preserve a large amount of grains, legumes, oatmeal, flour, pasta, and powdered drink mixes (chocolate milk, dry milk, juice), and the like. Include a tub of Crisco for baking and some cooking oil, sugar, salt, pepper, and maybe some other spices/seasonings of choice.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons, is a leading organization on food storage. One reason they are so capable of mobilizing relief efforts in times of crisis is because its members are prepared for the general welfare needs of their own families and so they can then help others. The church has great storage facilities that have provided many supplies to peoples of the world, in times of need. Its members are encouraged to prepare themselves and to turn to their own food storage first, if possible. When the hurricanes hit in New Orleans and people were scrambling for food, the Mormon’s “helping hands” organization was gathering to bring food to the people, but helping others needs be met was only possible because they were prepared and their own basic needs were already met.