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Do Not Just Survive - Thrive

As a mother, daughter, neighbor, friend, Realtor®, and Red Cross Disaster Responder I want to share my knowledge and ideas during this difficult time.  The world and our nation are facing a crisis that I never thought I would see in my lifetime.  Confined to our homes with social distancing is new to us.  This is a virus of epic proportions.  They advise us to stay home for up to 4 weeks.

So what can we do to minimize the impact this Coronavirus confinement has on us and our families?  Here are some tips and suggestions that may help you weather this disaster and future disasters to come.

BARTER:  As many have seen in the stores and on the news, supplies are running out.  Many cannot get the necessary items they need.  Grocery stores are shutting down meat, deli, and fresh vegetable cases.  Sanitary items are hard to find.  As this lockdown and the Coronavirus gets worse, so will the supply.  This is not meant to scare you, rather explain why the barter system is so important.

So, what is the barter system and how does it work?

Wikipedia defines bartering as “In trade, barter (derived from baretor[1]) is a system of exchange where participants in a transaction directly exchange goods or services for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money.”

Basically, think about what it is you have or can offer in exchange for what you need or want.  Perhaps you have lots of firewood that you could exchange for venison in someone’s freezer.  Apples could be exchanged for eggs.  Perhaps you babysit and can exchange the time for some service to your car.  You get the idea…

In Michigan we have the advantage of having farms, hunters, fisherman, etc. that can help us get through any food shortage.  Reach out to your community through Facebook groups or maybe even start a Barter Facebook Community in your area.





FOOD STORES:  So, you have enough food to get you by for 4 weeks.  Now what?  Eat your perishables first!  We have had the luxury in this country of having plenty – let’s face it.  Most people have more than they need.  We throw old bananas away; scrape half our plate into the trash.  We’ve got to change the way we think about food during this crisis and perhaps beyond.  We need to start thinking like a survivalist.

Save your leftovers and eat them at the next meal.  Eat that salad before it goes bad.  Perishables are the food items that expire or go bad quickly.  If, for instance you do have a banana go brown – turn it into a loaf of fresh baked banana bread or slice it into some jello for the kids.  If you can’t eat it fast enough, freeze it.  Just about anything can be frozen until ready to use.  The point is to not waste any of your precious food.

Here are some additional tips to store food longer

And, did you know milk can be frozen?  Yes. You heard it here!  Freeze containers of milk and when you thaw them out simply shake them each time you use them.  Frozen milk separates the cream from the water.  I did this the whole time I lived in Germany as the grocery store was just too far to drive for weekly shopping.

WATER:  Water is precious and key to our survival.  Many of us have well water, but for those who live in the cities and elsewhere that rely on bottled water it may become scarce.  You simply can’t drink your water at home, so what do you do?

You save your empty water containers.  Reach out to your friends, family, and neighbors who have a clear well or filtering system and fill your containers.

Here’s the recommendation for storing water

HOW TO MAKE FOOD STORES GO FURTHER:  So you’ve got a lot of children and a large family?  Perhaps you’d just like to make your food stores go further.  Here are some tips I have used over the years that I’d like to share with you to make your meals go further:

1). Make your own syrup.  Yep, you heard it.  It’s simple.  It’s easy.  And you probably have all the ingredients you need on hand.  Making pancakes is filling and can get you through some tough times with just a few simple ingredients.  There are tons of great recipes out there for pancakes made from scratch.  Add some blueberries, chocolate chips, or banannas for a fun and tasty twist!

Here’s our families secret recipe for homemade syrup (it’s a secret no more):

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Brown Sugar                     equal parts of these to modify

1 Cup Water

1 TBLS Butter

1 teas. Vanilla

Put all the ingredients in a pan until it comes to a full boil.  Delicious.  There’s nothing better on pancakes than hot syrup too!  The syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for months!  It’s also great on ice cream.

2)  Bake a chicken, turkey, or ham.  Not only will your family love a fresh baked meal, but you can boil the carcass down to make broth for soup!  You can get several meals out of just one chicken, turkey or ham.  Check online for some great recipes for soup!

3)  Make a roast.  A roast can easily be turned into sloppy joes with the leftovers. 

Here’s our families secret recipe for sloppy joes sauce: (it’s a secret no more)

1 C Katchup

1/4 teas Mustard

Dash of Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 C Brown Sugar

Add 1/4- 1/2 C Chopped Onions (optional)

(taste it, add or subtract for flavor)

4)  Bake your own bread.  Yes, it’s time consuming but SO worth it!  Bread dough can be used to make pizza, cinnamon rolls, and more!  I used to bake my own, but now I buy the frozen bread dough which is also a good option.  But if you can’t get to the stores, most people have what they need to bake their own.  If not, bartering with a neighbor is always a good option.  If you don't have any yeast on hand, make beer bread!  Here's a link to the recipe:

5)  Bake.  Some of us have gotten so used to buying baked goods at the local store that we’ve forgotten how to bake cakes, cookies, and biscuits from scratch.  Believe it or not, they’re better for you!  The great thing is, you probably already have everything you need right in your kitchen cabinet.  With a wealth of recipes on the internet the possibilities are endless.  Get your kids involved!  They’ll love it!

Don’t have everything you need?  Check out this handy substitution chart!

FOR KIDS:  Keeping kids busy can be tough on a regular day.  So how can you keep the kids entertained during this difficult time?  Here are some tips:

  • Get the kids outside. Yes, there’s a virus but chances are it’s not in your backyard.  There are so many things to explore right in your own yard!

Grab a container and go bug hunting!  Once the children have gathered a few bugs why not research them on the internet and turn it into a learning experience!

Here’s an example of a homemade bug catcher, but hey – back in my day we just used a mason jar!

Make your own bubbles:

Grow something!  Fill small containers with dirt and plant seeds following the instructions.  Lightly water and set them in the window sill.

Paint rocks.  I remember as a kid that “pet rocks” were really popular and it’s coming back.  Have your kids gather up some special rocks and get out the paint!

Play marbles.  Do you remember this game?  I would spend hours playing it as a child.  Here’s a link on how to play:

Yard cleanup can be fun!  Make it a prize for the child who collects the most sticks, or rakes up the most piles of leaves.

  • Inside, your kids can have fun too! You can get creative by having them help you make play dough, make your own slime, do arts & craft projects, create a terrarium, or write letters and draw pictures for the elderly who cannot get out during this difficult time.  Here’s some links with great ideas!

Help your kids build a fort!  Kids LOVE to build forts.  Get out the blankets and have some fun!

FOR ADULTS:  Its not easy being cooped up for days or weeks.  The main thing is to keep calm.  Let lots of sunlight in your home or turn on lights.  Play some music.  Depression can come screaming in and no one wants that.  Get out.  Take a walk and breathe some fresh air. 

We’re all confined; use it as a time to reconnect with your family.  Get out the board games and have a family night.  Light the candles and have a romantic dinner.  Play around with some new recipes.  Read a good book.  Take your dog for a hike.

It’s a great time for all that spring cleaning too!  Make your home shine with these great tips:

FUTURE PLANNING:  Sadly the Coronavirus will affect us all in some way.  Whether we know someone who has it, know someone who has died from it, or we’re confined to our homes.  We need to learn from it.  Disasters happen every day throughout the world.  Be prepared next time.  Here are some tips on being ready for next time:

  • Stock up on flour, sugar, baking supplies, pasta, canned meats, peanut butter, crackers, soups, and beans. Rotate these each time you buy new.  In other words, buy 2 of everything the first time you shop then rotate them out each week.  This prevents your food stocks from expiring.  Also, make sure you buy what you would normally eat.  Don’t buy a can of sardines if you don’t like them.
  • Keep some cash on hand.
  • Store seeds. There are many companies out there that sell seeds that don’t expire.  You want to buy Heirloom seeds only.  Normal seeds have an expiration date.  Heirloom seeds with no expiration date will grow food that you can save the seeds from to grow the following year.
  • Start a garden and learn to can. Gardening is fun and can be done in small areas (container gardens); raised beds; in the ground etc. 
  • Keep batteries, candles, and medical supplies on hand at all times.
  • Know your closest water source.

In a disaster you simply cannot rely on the grocery stores to have everything you need as we’re seeing today.  People are scrambling and clearing the shelves because they did not prepare!  Don’t be one of them.

Our country is going through something we’ve never seen before in our lifetime.  We have to adjust our schedules.  We have to adjust our lives.  We have to be cautious and protect ourselves and our families.  Please be kind to one another and help your family, neighbors and friends!

This too, shall pass and when it does I pray we are wiser and more prepared for the next disaster.  Please, practice common sense.  America is a great country and we will emerge from this stronger than ever before.

Do Not Just Survive, Thrive!


This blog was written by Amber Wakefield, Five Star Real Estate and is intended to be used as a guide only.