Tis the season for giving. It’s the most wonderful time of the year but it also tests our imagination and budget. With so many changes in the economy, weather patterns and society in general, this is the year to ban the usual ties, toys and perfume and get creative about the things really essential. This week we gather with family and friends to remember our blessings of the past year. What a great time to discover what items families are in need of as you make your gift giving plans for Christmas. How is their food storage and non-food storage looking? Do they have kits for everyone? Are they prepared to live off grid? Ask a few questions and create a gift giving guide. Preparedness can meet needs and be fun for gift recipients of all ages.
Some of my favorite things:
Fire blankets. These blankets hang on the wall in a small pouch ready to pull and use in an instant. Extinguish small fires quickly and easily with no mess (unlike fire extinguishers). Perfect for smothering stovetop fires, campfires and even to wrap someone whose clothing has caught fire.
Plug-in-flashlights. Plug into a wall socket and when power goes out the flashlight comes on. Some models come with a motion detector making them perfect for use as a night light. Another feature to look for is the ability turn off the flashlight if your outage is during the day saving the charge for use at night.
Filtered water bottle. Filtered water bottles provide a way to remove many contaminants from drinking water when facing a disaster or boil water order. They are portable, easy to carry and perfect for a kit without the weight of water. Unlike filtered straws where you have to suck the water thru the straw the bottle may be turned upside down and squeezed to provide safe water for cooking or reconstituting dehydrated and freeze-dried foods.
Toilet seat. Oh, you will get looks for this one! Toilet seats are designed to place on a five- gallon bucket to create a port-a potty. Use with specialized chemicals or kitty litter. One year when giving this as a gift I found camouflage toilet paper to go with it.
Fire pit. These are so much fun for family together times but also for cooking when the power fails. Our grid in the United States is in awful shape meaning it could fail or easily be taken down by those meaning us harm. There are currently those working to ban gas stoves eliminating cooking during an outage and making ways to cook off grid essential.
What about gift baskets?
Gift Idea #1: The Theme Gift.
“Don’t Tread on Me” Home invasions and burglaries are on the rise. Help your family or friends prepare their home so they are not easy targets. Consider: an alarm system,
locks for windows and sliding doors, timers for lights and radios, motion detector lighting, prepaid phone to be kept in a safe room, deadbolt lock for a safe room or to replace inferior ones on outside doors, and window coverings to prevent a thief from scouting out what is inside.
“You Light up My Life” or quote John 12:35 - “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” Include glow sticks, flashlights, a flashlight and radio combo, head lamps, solar lights that can be charged during the day and brought in at night during a power outage.
“Eat, Drink, and be Merry” Give Food (MRE meals, emergency food bars, a case of a favorite food), water pouches and a travel or favorite game.
“Over the River and Through the Woods” Reflective safety vest, large safety glow sticks, work gloves, small first aid kit and other items for safe travel.
“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first” (Ernestine Ulmer) A case or cans of food from each of the food groups. When setting an example of self-reliance for children include a case of cake and brownie mixes or other treats. Since my parents were children during the depression and lived thru WW II, we always had a pantry of food. My favorite part was the case of cream soda.
“The weather outside is frightful” Mylar blankets, rain poncho, hand-warmers, glow sticks, flashlight, battery-powered radio, hot cocoa and hot cider mix.
“To plant a garden is to dream of tomorrow.” (Audrey Hepburn) Purchase a garden bucket, add some packets of seeds, a trowel, a planting guide, and a gift certificate good for your help with next spring’s garden planting. Add the book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett for family reading.
Gift Idea #2 Gift Certificates free or almost free
Canning Kit: Give a case of new canning jars, either new or used with new lids, include a few of your favorite canning recipes and a gift certificate for a lug of fruit from your local orchard or your own tree next summer and/or a day of canning help. If you have your own fruit trees this gift is free except for the lids.
Canning Season Order Form: Create a gift certificate that is an order form for next canning season. Label the top of the certificate “Redeemable Summer 2024” Directions: Create a chart: “Choose one from each section” Then create sections for items you normally can. For example, “Fruit” choose from pears, applesauce or peaches. You could include a jam and jelly section, vegetable section, and a “Just for Fun” section which could include such things as pickles and spaghetti sauce. Then next summer deliver their selections all canned and ready for the shelves of their General Store.
Disaster Preparedness Kit: Send for, or download, information concerning natural disasters known to occur in your area. This information should also include counsel on what to do to be prepared for such emergencies. Place in a binder along with preparedness article such as those here or purchase our prepared binder or a section to download and add. You will not only have “warned your neighbor” but will have provided them with a way to act on the knowledge they have gained.
Family Night: Give a gift certificate and an invitation to join your family on specific date. When your guests arrive teach them preparedness skills. Make dinner and dessert in a Dutch oven or foil dinners, teach them about evacuation and give them information to study.
Gift Idea #3: The Survival Kit. Great for anyone but especially college students and newlyweds.
Cookies and dinners in a jar. You’ve seen these and they are great for students with little time to fix meals. Layer cookie ingredients or the ingredients for soup in a quart canning jar. Attach the direction for preparing the foods. Pack 6 jars of cookie mixes and 6 jars of a variety of soup mixes in a canning jar box. A great gift for kids too, all cookie mixes.
Dinner basket. Purchase a large laundry basket and fill it with a copy of your favorite, or your student’s favorite recipe. Purchase all the ingredients to make that recipe 5 times. Taco soup would be a great example since most of the ingredients are canned.
Private cache. Purchase a case of a favorite food. This is also great for young children. It helps them realize just how much is really needed for a year’s supply and teaches them your commitment to having a supply of food. Brownies or Mac & Cheese are perfect for kids. Create a case with variety of soups, veggies, or fruits for those just beginning, newlyweds or students.
Auto survival. Every student who drives a long distance to school should have an emergency car kit. In addition to coats and blankets carried separately during winter, kits should include: glow sticks for light if they need to remain in the car for an extended period, water packets, food bars, mylar blanket for warmth in winter or to cool a car during the summer, flashlight, poncho (preferably yellow for better visibility when walking), first aid kit, whistle, and towelettes for after changing a tire or putting on snow chains. This should be in a backpack or fanny pack, to keep hands free if they need to abandon the car to look for help or when it is dangerous to remain in the vehicle. This is important as in an emergency you want hands free for balance, especially in the snow or when dealing with debris.
Healthy semester kit. Remember college diets and late semester colds and flu? Prepare a healthy semester kit by including vitamins, cold remedies or preventatives, tissues, robe, slippers, and chicken soup.
Pet survival kit. Got Pets? Include a leash, small food and water dishes, ID tag for their collar with the name and phone number of the family’s out of state contact, water, and a couple of meat MREs. MREs are good long after the 5-year shelf life, however they can experience a change in taste. MREs which are due to “expire” can often be found at bargain prices and serve well as emergency pet supplies. They aee safe to consume for years past the “expiration” date.
Add to Survival kits:
Solar phone charger. Great to have when the power is out or when you need to evacuate and are away from home and access to a charger may be impossible.
Pre-paid cell phone. Add these to your car kits, purse, Emergency kits and office desk drawer. I know it seems we all have our cell phone glued to our bodies but in a rush to evacuate there may not be time to collect your phone or even your wallet.
Car Escape tool and seat belt cutter. This device will allow you to escape a damaged or sinking car by enabling you to easily break the window or cut a jammed seat belt.
Maps. Purchase local maps and regional maps. Mark several routes to exit the area in case of an emergency. During a disaster GPS may not be available and will not know which routes are inaccessible.
The family shirt. Or whatever… something that identifies you as part of a family unit is an important way to improve your chances for being reunited quickly. Purchase a solid color t-shirt for each member of the family. Shirt sizes for children should be at least one size larger than they are now wearing. Include a set of fabric crayons and instructions to create a family shirt. These shirts will then be placed in their Five-Day kits and worn when the family needs to evacuate. Each shirt should have the same picture on them but not a name. Have each member contribute something to the picture, iron it on to a shirt and then recolor and reuse for each additional shirt. Shirts should be a bright color to make them easier to spot in a crowd and more memorable. I remember the frustration during Katrina when family members were looking for their children. Everyone had seen a little girl with curly hair but there were hundreds of little girls with curly hair. If your family is all wearing the same distinctive shirt it is much more likely that someone will remember seeing your child. Even better, you might get a member of the media to say, “This child is wearing a shirt just like this one”. You can also use the same tactic with bandanas and baseball caps. Just remember to make them all the same and distinctive from those you can purchase. These may also be used when on vacation attending an amusement park or other place where crowds gather.
Gift Idea #4: Spiritual Preparedness
Oil for your lamp. Don’t forget spiritual preparedness. Give a set of scriptures or a small inspirational book to be kept in a Five-Day kit or in the car for times when you are stuck waiting for a road closure or for children. The military style scriptures are a possibility as they are small.
Scripture-a-day. Compile favorite scriptures from family members and create a scripture for each day of the year or even a month.
Gift Idea #5: Financial Preparedness.
Savings bonds are a great gift for anyone and especially for young children. They are tax exempt when used for post high school education.
Cash for a rainy day. What will we do for cash, if the power is down, along with the internet connections to your local ATM? It takes discipline, but some well-hidden cash is an important part of preparedness planning. Or, for students, a gift certificate to a local grocery store is much appreciated.
Savings accounts. Why not set up a savings account for a grandchild? They will love going with you to the bank and it will make them feel very grown up and responsible. Help them understand that the money is for college or trade school. You can add to the account as they grow. When our grandchildren were young, we had a piggy bank at our home and when our grandchildren visited and helped with chores, we placed money in their banks. You could use their savings account in the same way.
Tis the season for great deals on preparedness items. This week I have seen cases of food, rechargeable lanterns, backpacks and Dutch ovens on sale. Search online and at local stores for bargains.
With a measure of imagination and inspiration, anyone can make preparedness fun and personal. My gift of plug-in flashlights were much appreciated during a recent power outage and that toilet seat was loved by those experiencing an earthquake. During an emergency scenario, being prepared is so much more fun than the alternative!