• Faith,  Family,  Frugal Living

    Dollar Diet Week Two: Panic stations?

    Our budget has taken quite a beating as we settle into our life in Wellington. School and stationery fees, building up pantry supplies, items for the new house or garden etc. This is just the reality of moving – it’s expensive.

    Not only are groceries in Wellington way more expensive than our previous home of Pleasant Point, but we’ve had to spend considerable moolah just building up a supply of basic pantry items and cleaning supplies. Because we were required to put our things in storage for several weeks between houses, we had to run down our pantry supplies before the move; as movers will not move and store pantry and cleaning supplies that are open. For obvious reasons like vermin and spills.

    We have also usually kept a supply of items to last us several days in case of an emergency – most usually earthquakes here in New Zealand. You can find my previous post about putting together a kid-friendly survival kit here. I get a few days worth of non-perishable items that will make nutritious meals, water for drinking and cooking, plus a few treats and things like colouring books for the kids – because I imagine it’s pretty damn traumatic to be in a natural disaster.

    I said to Mr G a couple of Fridays ago, “We need to get our earthquake kit together. Should we get a bit extra in case Covid-19 gets here?” We weren’t panicking, but it seemed like a wise idea in case schools get shut. Later that day, after we’d finished putting our kit together, it was announced that the first case of Covid-19 had come to New Zealand.

    I am not freaked out about the virus, as it seems unlikely it will give my family and I more than a bad cold. However I do have a propensity to developing pneumonia – my last bout was only 18 months ago, and it took me three months to recover – so I’d say I am a bit more worried about it than my peers.

    I’m not sure why people are stocking up on toilet paper like it’s Armageddon. If Covid-19 was a gastro bug, I could totally understand! I do think it’s prudent to have two weeks worth of food in your cupboards, especially if workplaces or schools are closed down. If that doesn’t happen, then you’ve got a disaster kit at the ready.

    Two weeks worth is a lot of food, but Covid-19 seems to stay present for several days after symptoms have gone, and is why the recommended period for self-isolation is so long. You don’t have to rush out immediately and get two weeks worth at once, but you might want to pop a few extra items in your trolley, if you can afford it. And if you are able, think about donating non-perishable items to food banks, as for many people on low incomes buying ‘extra’ is impossible.

    My tip is to mark on your calendar to start using those supplies six months from now, so nothing goes to waste. We have done this for years and this system works well. Just remember to buy a few days worth of food to replace your emergency kit – at least three days is recommended. I would rather feel a bit silly for ‘overreacting’ (I’m finding the language and shaming around this pandemic very interesting!), than be stuck at home for two weeks with hungry and bored kids.

    Anyway, that was a long ramble just to say we went over our usual grocery budget.

    Here are some things I did to be frugal this week:

    • Started packing Rev G’s lunch for him. That sounds absolutely vomitous, seeing it written down. I swear I’m not Suzy Homemaker, with my apron and coiffed hair, kissing Rev G on the cheek as he goes to work. I currently pack lunch for everyone as my family seriously struggle with getting out the door in the morning (I’m sure we’re not alone in this!). Whilst totally capable of making his own lunch, this simple act has reduced his time pressure in the morning, and means no one is late to school or work. Rev G has taken a packed lunch for work for years, but me making his lunch has reduced the times he’s had to pop to a cafe for lunch because he forgot to make it/ran out of time. There are many times that frugality requires teamwork. And I like that.
    • Batched my errands to minimise car use.
    • Relied on free entertainment: books, catching up with friends, hobbies (most of my free time has been taken up with writing a small-group Lent study based on The Two Popes).
    • Meal planned and was diligent about using leftovers and things lurking at the back of the fridge.

    Anyway, wishing you a safe and healthy week!

  • Family

    Are you prepared for the worst? A kid-friendly survival guide

    Natural disasters and catastrophes aren’t something I go around thinking about a lot.  Truly.  But having been the health and safety person for several voluntary organisations, I’ve come into contact with folks that do it for a living.

    Damaged Building Interior

    Here in New Zealand we have Civil Defence, who are the wonderful people that spring into action when disaster strikes.  Spending time with Civil Defence made me realise how complacent and naive I was about the likelihood of being in a large-scale emergency situation.  Which is stupid as I live in New Zealand.  One of NZ’s nicknames is the ‘shaky isles’ due to the large number of earthquakes we have!  Earthquakes are the biggest threat to us here, so this post is earthquake-preparation heavy, but many of these tips can be adapted for your particular situation in the world.

    One member of Civil Defence (who was just like Mad-Eye Moody, for Potter fans.  Constant vigilance!) told me about the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 where he was based at the time it struck.  The earthquake was terrible, leaving many dead and injured, and even now, years later, some people are still waiting to get their damaged homes sorted.  He told me many things that Civil Defence learned in the aftermath of the quake, and shared with me the story of how it affected his workmate.  His colleague was a single dad, who, upon rushing to the day care where his child was, arrived to find it empty.  It took him three days to be reunited with his child, during which he was unable to do his job as he was too distraught.

    broken, clouds, glass

    Here are some tips to help you get through an emergency.

    Lesson One: Know where your child’s daycare or school will evacuate to in an emergency.  Now, any daycare or school has to adhere to the strictest building regulations, and will most likely be safe in a large earthquake.  Schools are often used as emergency shelters for just this reason.  But it is impossible to predict how things like liquefaction or downed power lines etc may affect your child’s daycare or school, which in turn may necessitate an evacuation.  So ask your child’s teacher.  If they don’t know, ask the manager or principal to find out.

    Lesson Two: Have a family emergency plan.  Talk about what you will do in the event of a disaster, like an earthquake or tsunami.  Who will find the kids?  How and where will you meet up?  What will you do if it’s not actually safe to meet there?  Loads of parents in the Christchurch earthquake spent hours trying to get to their kids, only to find the other parent had got to them first.  Go through the plan with your kids.  Many times.

    Remember: it is unlikely you will be able to use your cellphone in the immediate aftermath of a major disaster.  For one thing, the phone lines get slammed by worried friends and relatives, and can it take hours or even days to get through, depending on the damage.  During the Christchurch earthquake a major phone provider actually shut down their network to give text messages the change to get through.  Texting is the best way to communicate, don’t call.

    Lesson Three: Designate a family member or friend who lives in another part of the country as an emergency phone contact.  What they discovered after Christchurch was that while it was impossible to make contact locally, sometimes it was possible to make calls out of Christchurch to other parts of NZ.  In the event of a large-scale disaster, your family could all agree (at least the adults, anyway) to call Aunt Enid in Auckland to let her know you’re safe.  Then Aunt Enid can tell anyone else who checks in.  Sort of like a lower-tech ‘Safe’ tag on Facebook.  Aunt Enid can also call your family in other parts of the country to let them know you’re okay.

    Lesson Four: Educate yourself about the likelihood of you getting home/to your kids in an emergency.  It was quite eye-opening when I talked with Civil Defence for my daughter’s kindy in Whanganui.  The kindy was in a very safe spot, even for an earthquake, but the Civil Defence worker pointed out that in a major earthquake, most of the CBD (located near the Whanganui river/awa) would be knee-deep in liquefaction.  The bridges connecting the city from east to west would likely be destroyed or unpassable.  What this meant for the kindy was that MANY PARENTS WOULD BE UNABLE TO REACH THE KINDY if they lived or worked in the CBD or Whanganui East, as they were on the other side of town.

    Free stock photo of city, cars, road, vehicles
    Could you walk home in an emergency?

    So again, you need a plan.  Most emergency response teams in your area will happily share this sort of information with you.  If you work, keep a ‘grab and go’ kit there.  Many folks in Christchurch say they wish they’d kept a pair of sneakers at the office after they had to walk hours and hours to get home.  If you’re someone who has a long commute, would you be able to walk the distance home?  Where might you stay if you couldn’t, or if your usual route was unpassable?

    You can find ideas for what else to include in a ‘grab and go kit’ here.

    Lesson Five: It’s recommended that you have at least three days worth of food and water, in the event of a disaster.  For my family I have two bags of canned goods, cereal, long-life milk and milk powder, a tin opener, and water stashed away in a garden shed.  One lesson learned in Christchurch was the need to have emergency supplies stored somewhere away from the house, as many homes were not safe to enter.  It’s also recommended you have a wee stash of medication, a torch/flashlight, a first aid kit, some cash (there’s often no electricity for ages, therefore no cash machines or banks in working order…), nappies and formula, and pet food.  I’d also add some lollies (candy for my overseas readers) and chocolate.  If there’s ever a time it’s okay to give your kids some comfort food, it’s then!

    I’m a super-organised person by nature, and here’s my tip.  Don’t have anything in your emergency supplies that you don’t like eating.  If you hate baked beans, they will be cold comfort if the worst happens.  Every six months I simply swap out the emergency stash for new supplies, and we consume the old stash.  As it is filled with things we like to eat, it’s no problem.  You can find a comprehensive list of emergency items here.

    Lesson Six: Quake-proof your home.  Don’t store heavy objects up high on a shelf.  Fix your bookcases to the wall, secure TV’s and other appliances.

    chairs, furniture, home
    See that big pot plant?  Don’t stick it up high where it could kill you…

    Lesson Seven: Unless you can smell a leak, do NOT turn off the gas, unless instructed to do so by the authorities.  Gas can only be turned back on by a professional, and many Christchurch homes waited weeks and weeks and weeks to get gas back.

    Lesson Eight: Know your neighbours.  You don’t have to be best friends, but simply knowing that old Mr Allen down the road at number 10 would need checking on, or that Trev at number 13 has a massive gas barbeque, could be the difference in bouncing back quickly after a natural disaster like an earthquake.  Connected communities are resilient communities.

    Lesson Nine: Keep half a tank of petrol in your car in case you ever need to evacuate, and know how to open your automatic garage door if the power goes out.

    Lesson Ten: The 2011 Christchurch earthquake happened during school hours.  What they discovered was the difference between children who were very traumatised and those who were okay (at least initially), was often down to the reaction of their teacher.  I haven’t been in a major disaster myself, but if I ever am I hope I remember this.  My reaction, trying to stay calm (at least on the inside) will help my children.  Keep things as normal as possible.  Keep them away from social media and the news.  Share only what is strictly necessary for them to know.  Try to keep discussing your worries for after they are in bed.

    Cute Family Picture


    What tips would you add?


    *Please use your common sense and look up the disaster recovery advice in your own area.*