Saturday, August 21, 2010


The "before" picture of our fridge.

Yesterday we started our Life As We Knew It Month. The name comes from the book by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Here is how I described that book on my Goodreads account when I first read it in September of 2008:

"This seemed more like an experience than a book. It is the story of 15 year-old Miranda's life after a catastrophic event that changed the climate of the earth and plunges life into a volcanic winter of food and fuel shortages and death all around. While the science is shaky and it feels a bit like watching The Day After, it takes you through a roller coaster of emotions. Miranda is still a teenager, dealing with her brothers and mother and normal teen angst, but also goes through a harsh maturing that made me wonder how I would have done, and how I would do now in the mother role. It also makes me want to inventory my food storage carefully, and makes me glad that I don't live on the coast."

***Warning---book spoilers***
In the book, the moon is hit by a giant asteroid and is knocked closer to the earth. For a while, life is normal, until people realize that some of the changes will be permanent. There is no re-stocking the grocery stores so they do a "crazy shopping day" where they frantically fill cart after cart with whatever they can fight people for. The electricity becomes unreliable, then off completely. School is eventually closed when too few students and teachers come and when there is no more food for lunches. Their garden fails and all they have left to do is ration food and cut firewood. Epidemic flu hits, bitter cold, and every worst nightmare situation happens. Finally, when the mom reaches the point of starving herself, and then choosing which of her children she wants to live, they are able to find a steady food supply and hope for the future.
***Spoilers over***

I think I first heard about this book from the blog postings of Mette Ivie Harrison, a local Utah author. She has done LAWKI month 3 times with her family. Summed up, it is no shopping for one month, live with what you have in the house now. I was fascinated reading about her experiences and lessons learned with her family and have wanted to try this for about a year now. It finally has happened.

Yesterday, Michael called the family together and announced an "emergency"---chemical spill at the railroad that is a quarter mile from our house. We had 15 minutes to evacuate. We have a set emergency plan that includes a list of quick jobs to do (put out extra food for the cats, adjust the thermostat, call our emergency contacts, etc) and then a list of items everyone is responsible for gathering (5 gallon water jug, small tent, external hard drive, small fire safe with important documents, mp3 players, books, and 72 hour kits). We have these lists printed so we can hand each person their instructions and get right to work. They also include less items and more items, depending on how quickly we have to go and if we have time to put the roof carrier on the van for more room. In the end, it was just over 14 minutes from the first call to leaving the garage.

We evacuated to a local grocery store where, over ice cream cones, we explained what the real situation was...that we were simulating a more extensive emergency, such as a major earthquake where supplies might be limited for days, weeks, or months. The bottom line is that we would not be able to go shopping for the next month, food or otherwise. We gave them each $10 and said they could buy whatever they wanted with it, what they thought they might miss the most or what they would want to have just to themselves. The choices were surprising. Ben bought Ramen in every flavor and pudding, some already made in cups and some boxes to make. John bought 4 Fuze drinks and a bag of Quaker rice treats. Katie and Michael combined their money and bought Ramen, Nutella, tortillas, Doritos and string cheese for lunches and oysters. James bought cologne. I bought a bag of Fritos, a bag of pretzels, a bag of Lays and a container of sour cream.

When we got home, we unpacked everything and then gave everyone a survey to fill out. We will do it once a week during the month:

What three words would you use to describe your thoughts on LAWKI Month
: understandable, smart, surprising; good idea mom; stupid, wasteful pathetic; creepy, horrible, awful; intense, educational, FOOD!; nuts, wise, harsh.

What will you miss the most:
Milk!, easy food, cheese, sour cream, free-for-all dinners (my version of everyone fix what you want and can find), pudding, pizza, milk!!!, no idea.

What lessons do you think that we will learn from LAWKI Month?
How lucky we are, what else we need in food storage, none, how to ration food, commitments, whether planned meals will work, how to cook some foods, how prepared we really are.

On a scale of 1-10, how crazy are we to do this?
8.3 (7.6 if just the kids)

On a scale of 1-10, how angry are you to have to participate?
3.1 (most were 1 or 2, but we did have a 10)

On a scale of 1-10, how much do you think this will affect life?

We do have some rules, and exceptions to those rules planned.

1. Kids get to eat school lunch if they want, but cannot gorge, just the standard meal.
2. All garden produce we have growing we get to eat.
3. We can barter with our neighbors for things, but must offer something in return. For example, my neighbor borrowed a package of butter today, but brought back 7 ears of fresh corn in return. We are blessed with a great neighbor family who we regularly trade with and I can't imagine that stopping in an emergency.
4. We will try to walk when we can. As we are not going to stores anytime soon, this should not be too bad. It is only about a mile to church and a mile to the library, and 2 miles to the schools. The kids will ride bikes to school so we are fine there. Michael will drive to work, and we will get gas as needed for that. It will be interesting to see how long the gas lasts.
5. With school starting next week, we understand that we will be shopping for school supplies once they get lists from their individual teachers. They have backpacks and binders, but some teachers are specific in what they want and we will get what is needed.
6. Some stores have "case lot" sales this time of year that we usually purchase from. It is how we stock and maintain our food storage. I am too cheap to not shop during these sales, so we will be doing this. We will not use any of this food/supplies in the next month, however.
7. We are in the process of buying a new water heater and new computer. We will continue as planned with these purchases.
8. James' 16th birthday is 3 days after LAWKI month is done. If we need to shop a bit to make that what we want, we will.
9. Because we have, in theory, a years supply of food, we will absolutely not run out of food. In some respects, one month is not long enough. We intentionally might limit what we can get into, such as when the real eggs are gone, I don't think we will open the powdered ones. We will just do without. We will breach the powdered milk though, even if it is just for cooking. I also don't think we will use everything in the freezer, as I want to try some of the meatless meals that we would have to do if the electricity was out for an extended length of time.
10. We are totally making this up as we go along, so everything might change. Hopefully, it will stay in the spirit of what we are trying to do.

I am going to try posting regularly in the next month. I really don't think all that many people care about this, but it will be a forced journal for this and I think that will be useful.

Wish us luck.


-A said...

I laughed at the one "10" on being angry for having to participate. I bet I can guess which of your teenagers is already feeling that angst. :-)

This really is an intriguing idea and I, for one, am excited to read about your experiences.

Jess said...

This is a great idea.

Nana J said...

Wow, you are an inspiration. I will watch with a great deal of interest and hope to learn from this. Perhaps it would do us some good to try it. We would probably find out what of our food storage isn't any good.

JWJohnsen said...

I just want you to know I am also following along.

Jeanne said...

Very cool idea. I wonder if my family would completely rebel if I tried this. Feel free to call me if you need something. Jeanne