Late spring and early summer are the times to buy the Seal A Meal or Foodsaver machines. They are both made by the same parent company and can be found at any major grocery or department store in the kitchenware section-the Seal A Meal is the less expensive version that can be found for under $30 on sale, and the bags to go with it will cost you about the same again. You can make this a game or a family activity like an assembly line, just have all your items stacked in little piles, and start sealing--it's actually fun to use it-I feel like a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter. See below for the myriad uses I have made of my unit. These also make wonderful gifts to your church for emergencies if they are given food items that may go stale.
1-Batteries-as we all know, moisture and air are the enemies of batteries, buy in bulk when they are on sale and seal them up airtight and watertight and keep them in your fridge.
2-Ammo--seal up your ammo/bullets in their boxes in individual sealing bags labeled with the date of purchase, that way if you have to ford any bodies of water (rivers, swamps, canals etc) or are caught in deluges, your extra ammo will stay nice and dry and untarnished.
3-Precious Metals--your silver coins and bars and gold coins and bars can be portioned out and individually sealed in similarly valued amounts. I haven't tried burying them to see how long it would take the heavy plastic to degrade but it should be good for a few months at least, unless rodents get into it or its in very wet or alkaline earth--you could try burying them inside a jar or can. One good side effect is that vacuum sealed items do not clink and clank as they are packed solidly together so they make no noise when carried.
Medicines-I sealed up individual pouches containing baby aspirin, Pepto Bismol chewable tablets, chloraseptic cough lozenges (the heavy duty ones that really numb your throat), over the counter allergy pills like generic claritin, sinus pain and pressure pills, Lanacane or Neosporin cream for insect bites and scrapes, insect repellant wipes, tooth and gum numbing gel for toothaches, moisturizing eyewash to help with dust, soot and gunpowder grit, small jars of Vicks and Noxema and aloe sunburn gel, and advil or tylenol. I also throw in a small bottle of Thompson Labs Fish Mox Forte which is the same as human grade 500 mg amoxicillin (antibiotics) that you can buy online without a prescription (it's a shame we cannot locate a family preparedness-friendly doctor who would be willing to give out prescriptions for tranquilizers or anti-anxiety meds for those individuals who will undoubtedly freak out big time after a week of no gas and no grocery deliveries). If you put together several of these as your finances allow, they make great trading items. You can also add condoms, or bag them up separately, as after the existing supply of condoms and birth control pills goes away, expect a flood of pregnancies as nature tries to naturally replenish the ranks. You can also bag up your medicinal marijuana separately if you anticipate needing it later.
Clothing Repair Kits--needles, thread in 4 basic colors, small scissors from the dollar store, buttons in half inch and three-quarter inch sizes (these are standard waistband and shirt front sizes, if the button holes are too big you can sew the holes partially shut so the buttons will not come unbuttoned.
Surgical Kit-a basic surgical kit containing over the counter items such as tweezers, silk suture thread and suture needles, a couple pairs nitrile gloves, gauze and medical tape, a couple surgical masks if you can obtain them, wound clotting powder or gauze saturated with same (expensive but may save a life), small bottle of silver solution or betadine wound area disinfectant, a small X-Acto knife, and a basic pair of dental pliers for extractions. Salt could also be included for rinsing mouths after extractions.
Children's books and small toys--bag up a couple of those old beanie babies and some Lego or Playmobile toys and a few standard children's books, they can be a great comfort and distraction to anxious small ones.
Fire Strikes and Sharpening Stones (and small pocketknives)--these are messy to carry loose in your bag but sealing them up minimizes the marks and grit, worth their weight in gold if unable to obtain later. I also buy the multi packs of bic lighters when they are on sale and keep a few in every location along with several cheap flashlights that I test semi-annually and replace batteries if needed.
Coffee, Tea bags, Creamer and Sugar packets--I bag up sets that include a small bag of good brand ground coffee, a couple dozen individual sugar packets and some individual creamer packets, and do the same with tea bags. Don't combine coffee and tea as one will absorb the smell of the other. You can buy the individual packets in bulk from any restaurant supply store or from www.minimus.biz.
Newborn Gift Sets--use a larger size seal a meal bag that you can make yourself from the endless roll you can buy, you can cut it to any size, seal one end, fill it, and seal the other end. About half a dozen good thick cloth diapers, a few diaper pins, a baby bottle with nipple, a few packets of powdered infant formula and a flannelette baby gown will be a welcome gift for all those unprepared mothers with babies.
Sugar, Salt, Seasoning Packets--I buy the cheap seasonings when on sale for .99 cents, I get Lite Salt, Coarse Ground Pepper, Dried Onion Flakes, Cinnamon, and I buy the individual packets of salt and sugar online and throw in a big handful of those. You can add vanilla extract and garlic powder as well if you enjoy those flavors. I also include the strips of 6 quick rising yeast packets for "just in case". You can also throw in a couple packets of jerky seasonings or rubs if you make your own jerky. I also like to add a packet or two of uncle dan's dill dip as a seasoning for fish.
Important ID Papers--open your passport so the page with your photo is visible, then right below is, put your drivers license face out so it's visible, the on the reverse side, put your birth certificate face out so the details can be seen, that way you can show it without having to remove the documents.
Jerked Meats-you can seal up your own venison or salmon jerky, it will last for quite a while.
Local Honey--Honey has been known to last indefinitely if well preserved, I get local organic honey at the farmers market in glass jars, and then wrap the jars in bubble wrap and seal them up. Glass will break if dropped or clinked against something so make sure to bubble wrap the jar well.
Dried Fruits and Nuts-I especially like pecans and cashews so I buy cans of those and portion them out in seal a meal bags--they have the good fats in them. I also like dried cherries and strawberries and papaya, a spear or two of dried papaya every week will make your poop the consistency of mush and you will never be constipated-stands to reason, papaya is a natural tenderizer that breaks down food fibers. You can get a large bag for under $2 in the bulk foods section of any major grocery store
Photo Albums--if you are going to seal up any kind of paper goods they have to have stiff corners as the sealing process will crumple them all up otherwise.
Clothesline rope and clothespins--good to have for when you get to where you are going. Any good man can build the end supports for the clothesline and attach the rope for you--may take a pie or two to persuade him though.
Emergency Toilet Paper--as we all know, TP is a very fragile item if not stored properly and the most desirable in an emergency. The sealing process will flatten the roll but you can bend the internal paper tube back into shape once you open the bag. I bag up one roll per bag and throw a couple in your car trunk. Also to put it delicately, tampons and menstrual pads pack up easily and would be a great comfort to a female who may be embarrassed when her period begins. [JWR Adds: They also make good wound dressings.]
Clothing--a pair of clean socks, a pair of gloves and a clean pair of underpants can make a world of difference when yours are soaking wet and smelly. I keep a bagged set in the trunk-doesn't take up much room.
Laundry detergent--I pre-measure 2 heaping cups of powder type laundry detergent and seal it up. I do not like the liquid as the lids on the jugs are not tight and the liquid will leak out all over your other goods. One bag should be good for a small load of heavily soiled clothing when hand washing in a bucket or washtub if you don't have access to a motor driven washer. This way the powder is protected from absorbing water and spillage.
Soap and Washcloth--seal up a bar of your favorite soap and a washcloth or small hand towel. I make up several of these and keep one at work, one in the trunk, one in the go-bag at home--you never know where you will be when the smoke, dirt etc, will land on you. Throw in a handful of individual wet wipes if you like.
Make your own Breakfast and Lunch packets--I buy the boxes of high fiber oatmeal packets when on sale, and bag up 8 at a time--if watered down, that is enough for a family of 4 to have a nutritious breakfast for a couple days. I also make up emergency group lunch packets by combining 2 cups of instant rice with an envelope of the cheap brown gravy mix. You can do the same with stuffing mix or instant mashed potatoes, the goal is to get as many carbohydrates into you as possible if you are on the march and these items will not create much of a cooking smell to attract predators.
I will not mention liquor or cigarettes as those are wants, not needs, And if your adrenaline is pumping hard you won't need any further stimulation.
Another suggestion: Once the SHTF, if you are near other humans and will be cooking anything that has a smell, like baking bread or frying meat or making coffee, wait until full dark, and keep lights from being seen. That way another person may smell what you are cooking but will not be able to see the smoke or follow the scent exactly.
And one closing suggestion: Every time you have an empty mineral water bottle or juice bottle, rinse and fill with water and add a couple drops of food grade hydrogen peroxide, and cap tightly and put up on the top closet shelf or under the sink, there's always a little room, and the worst that will happen is in a year you may need to empty and refill them. As a test, try going for 8 hours without drinking any liquid and you will appreciate the necessity of having clean drinking water on hand.