*Unemployment as a Survival Situation?*
It sure feels like it!
By: Pooch
29 July 2003

January 3rd, I was the victim of downsizing by the new ďPowers That BeĒ at the company I worked at. I was disappointed in more ways than one, the family connection to the company since 1960 being one, the fact that with my back injury I am limited to the types of work I can do being another. This job worked around my back and the pay was excellent, so that was something else I was going to miss. As they say though, "All good things come to an end", and this was another.

Being a survivalist I was for the most part prepared for this situation, i.e; food stockpiled, water, alternate heating and lighting sources if money should run out and even so many months of money in savings to help out. Plus, UC would be a decent amount, not what I was making, in fact it turns out to be about 45% of what I was making, but better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Well, six months later and I am beginning to feel like someone just getting started in survivalism. The hard fact of the matter is this, REPLACING items once used IS possible when laid off, just not as many of each, and it may be impossible when everything goes south, as in TSHTF. In two more weeks my benefits run out, I qualify for an extension since I am considered a displaced worker, but this is no way to live. That six months of money for emergencies......well, it is gone, I could have used it to buy a new computer, I did use part of it to buy parts to repair the old one, but for the most part it went to paying off the excess winter utility bills, insurance, taxes on the house and to try and keep my food stocks up. Also the unexpected tends to leap out at you, such as needing new ball joints on the Blazer and tires to pass inspection.

I guess I (as well as others I am sure) thought that layoffs were an inconvenience and not a survival situation, but believe me, in a short few months this can turn into one. Supplies dwindling. Money running out. No health insurance. No light at the end of the tunnel. No way to re-supply for the most part.

I have learned alot about what I can and can't do during this, I know I shouldn't feel like a loser, but I even went around to the fast food places looking for work to suppliment my UC, I certainly felt like one. I actually went to places to apply that I knew I could in no way, shape or form do the work because of my back, but was honest with them about my situation in the hopes they might have something else.

I am willing to bet, that most people do not look at being unemployed as a serious survival situation since you receive benefits while laid off. However this isn't a job and the benefits do end. When you are used to living at one end of the financial ladder and all of a sudden you are at the other, money and supplies are used up faster than you can replenish them.

Where I am now is becoming more of a real survival situation than it was six months ago, I am surviving, I will survive it no matter what, but I have realized a few things too. If you feel you are prepared by having six months of money in savings, think again, whoever came up with that magic number just picked it out of thin air. When you think a years supply of food is good, think 2 years or 3 years or more, I found that the more you are around the house, the more you tend to eat out of plain boredom, depression from constant worry and, well, just because. You WILL use up your food faster, what might be a weeks worth turns out to be 4 or 5 days worth. Toilet paper, for some reason we have gone through it faster than before the layoff, I think because we are here more at home. When I was at work I used their facility and now I use mine, which also raises my water/sewage rate because of more use (we have been working on the conservation side there though). More electricity is used if you are home, more in the evenings, that is why we use Dietz barn lanterns a lot in the evenings, until you have done so you have no idea how relaxing that sort of light can be to a mind full of worry. This in turn though uses kerosene at a faster rate, though still less expensive than electricity.

Here's one I didn't think about, clothes wear faster, the reason in my case, to conserve water, you wear them an extra day, dirt will wear out clothes faster than washing them more often. So it's six of one, half dozen of the other, higher water bills or higher clothing bills...never look down on Goodwill or Dollar Stores for shopping, name brands don't mean crap when you need to CYA (literally) and don't have the bucks for your usual preference in name brands.

Detergent for clothes, I have been buying liquid at the Dollar General and save about 40% that way, during summer months I am drying on the line and probably will some things through cold weather. For lounging around the house we have decided to use one set of clothing, be it shorts and Tís or sweats if it gets chilly. When we go out we change, this way we arenít soiling clothes unnecessarily when no one is around to see how well we are dressed. Barefoot around the house saves on dirtying socks too. Hereís something I found about clothes washing too, remember diaper pails, get a plastic garbage can and place dirty clothes in it, add water an let them soak the night before you are going to do laundry. Stir them around with a broom handle every once and a while. This way, when you go to wash, you need less water in the machine as the clothes are already wet, but the dirt has loosened up before washing and my clothes seem to come cleaner.

Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc., all seem to go faster, store more than you think you will need, as you will run out. I thought I had plenty of certain items, but realized they werenít near as many as I thought. I had figured on a bar of soap per week for two of us at home at present, however, one in the tub, one at the kitchen sink and one at the bathroom sink showed me that 52 bars for a year wonít be enough. Shampoo, I can use small amounts, but my son for some reason feels like he needs twice as much as I feel he needs and he uses twice as much, go figure kids. I have found that we are going through toothpaste faster and deodorant alsoÖ.Iím not sure why, but we are. Toilet paper goes fast, paper towels and napkins do also, stock twice what you think you will need, 4 times as much toilet paperÖLOL!

I have found butter goes fast, lucky I canned a mess in the past, crackers go fast too...oyster crackers vacuum sealed in jars are a great way to go. Canned breads really come into their own at this point, though they are actually more cake than bread. Make sure you have sweets of some sort put aside, they greatly help overcome that feeling of being deprived, for some reason I have a craving for chocolate more often than usual.

Everyone stores rice and beans and I'm another, but let me tell you, they can be monotonous after a while, a tip here on rice, buy the long cook variety, and add soup base to the water when cooking, it makes rice better. It is surprising though how a few small things can change your rice and bean diet from bland to appetizing fair. Adding seasonings while they cook as well as making some topping of meats and veggies to go with it will make it easier to swallow on a regular basis. Something as simple as cooking a can of tomato soup and adding rice to make tomato rice soup will make it more filling and also feed more people. Try tuna and rice with some seasonings, leftover rice in the morning with milk and sugar isnít all that bad.

I buy whole frying chickens, they are less expensive than the roasters (in my case, a roaster can run $6.00 to $8.00, while a fryer can run $3.00 to $4.00) and their flavor is better as far as I am concerned. I roast these fryers for one meal, the leftover meat de-boned is used for soup, and to add to cooked rice, along with a few veggies for a quick supper. The bones are used to make soup stock. When you are flush with money you buy chicken breasts or boned chicken breast and pay the extra money for the convenience, when you are collecting UC, you buy the whole bird and bone it out yourself and pay about 1/3 as much for it. Wings and drum sticks used to be low priced and I can remember when they actually would give them away at the store, no more, they can cost as much as boned chicken, they are a novelty now, deep-fried and sauced up, everyone sells wings these days. I bought a family pack of eye of round roasts, sliced thin and quick fried with veggies they can be added to rice for a stir fry. Some stores still will give away soup bones, some charge a small fee, buy them, bake them in the oven and when browned, boil them for stock. Fish from my ponds are filleted, some are sliced thin for stir fry and used with rice. Fish in the store is too expensive to buy these days, I have seen steak cheaper than fish lately.

One thing you use up fast is bread, butter and milk. Besides baking bread, I buy it and freeze it, frozen it usually doesn't keep long without freezer burn and drying out, but I use a trick a friends wife told me about a while back. When I bring it home, I untie the wire tie, place a drinking straw in the bag and suck out the air, twist it shut as I withdraw the straw and tie it off, then I place a second bread bag over that and repeat the straw and tie. When I have the loaves ready I place them in a brown paper grocery bag and fold the top down and staple it. For some reason my bread doesnít get freezer burnt before I use it up. I only buy brown breads, never white, whether this has something to do with it I donít know.

Butter can be frozen, so when it is on sale I stock up, I also can butter when I have enough and it will keep on the shelves for at least 3 years, maybe longer if done properly. As for milk, we have managed to cut back on milk for the summer at least, when I do buy extra I freeze it, you have to let it completely thaw before drinking it so it tastes right though.

Coupons are your friend for sure, buy one, get one free, I have managed to add a lot of food to the table with a big savings in money. I have to admit, I am learning more about this from my oldest daughter, itís a regular grocery store in her apartment, separate from her personal groceries, all with coupons as the base. In fact, I even shop at her grocery from time to time 8^). Last trip I ended up with 19 plastic grocery bags and a couple of boxes for $31.78, this included, deodorant, toothpaste, canned and boxed foods, even 48 cans of V8 juice in pop top cans (the V8 was free). I bought 40 boxes of cat food for the kids cat at $.20 cents a box, this is Nine Lives, not generic. My daughter and her boyfriend buy foods they donít even use and then sell them at flea markets for cash for things they do use. What they might pay $.10 for nets them $.75 to $1.25 each and the person buying still saves a buck or two.

Buying in bulk can help too. We all know this, but now is when I realize where I need to save money. Around here we have a lot of Amish, and therefore a lot of access to the bulk food stores they own to sell to their neighbors. I have three within driving distance, one only 6 minutes, one 20minutes and one about 35 minutes away, when you go to the one 35 minutes away there are numerous other types of stores too. A few examples of things I buy are, breakfast cereals, I bought 10# of rice krispies. Do you have any idea how big a bag it takes for 10# of rice krispies? They weight nothing individually, the bag is big enough to put 50# of potatoes in. I paid $5.00 for it. I bought 10# of brown sugar for $5.00, it keeps great in the freezer, just scoop out what you need and it doesnít dry out. I bought 5# of powdered cheese, 20# of egg noodles, 10# of lasagna noodles, 50# of cornmeal, 50# of sugar. I bought 4 Dietz lanterns a few years ago for $11.95 each and I stocked up on strike anywhere matches. Everyone is always asking about strike anywhere matches, you can always find them in Amish or Mennonite country. I just recently bought another bag of potatoes, 50# for $5.99, I dehydrate them as well as use them fresh.

Around here there are fresh produce stores, stands and even trucks along side the roads selling everything that is in season. The local pick your own farms are now open so there is more good food, though sometimes more expensive than in the store, hit them at the end of the day and sometimes you can walk away with freebies as well as half or less priced items. People want fresh produce and if it sets overnight it wonít sell as what was picked first thing in the morning. Around here as the season wears on you can find farmers that will let you glean their fields before they go through and turn everything under, some want a small fee, others donít care. Some farmers will let you pick early if you make an offer to help out during busy season.

Wild foraging can cut down on some eating expenses too. I missed the strawberries, because of the short time to pick them and the wild animals beat me to them. Right now though, raspberries are ripe, blueberries are ripe, mulberries are ripe and blackberries are starting. You can pick mayapples and sumac berries (not the white poison, but the red furry staghorn) to make drinks with. Apples will be ready soon, I have been eating some green ones at camp lately and think I might make a green apple pie, they make good fruit rollups too. Nuts are going to be in abundance around here this year and acorn bread will be on the menu. I have picked wild onions and leeks too.

I am looking into getting back into raising rabbits again, I always enjoyed that, for the amount of work involved you get a great amount of meat in return. Wild game is seasonal, but with two of us hunting we will be able to add a lot more protein to the larder, only problem being the expense of the licenses, not a big savings there, but we make it work.

All in all I guess what I have figured out is that something as simple as a layoff can be a survival situation and even though I thought I had plenty of supplies stockpiled, but found some items are used up faster than I thought possible. I am looking at outside ways to supplement my stored food items, alternate methods of dealing with things, and trying to keep my eye on the prize..SURVIVING!

The longer this goes on the more I realize that this is a real life test of survival and I am learning some valuable lessons.

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