Minimalist Hurricane Prep, Part 1

A hurricane is coming! Quick! Freak Out!

If you watched the news on Hurricane Irma recently, you have been led to believe that the entire state of Florida was being evacuated.  In fact, only the barrier islands and a couple blocks inland were evacuated.  As you can see from the map below, the actual number of people evacuated is tiny.

Evacuation Map of Palm Beach County

Evacuation Map of Palm Beach County

The media would gloss over it, but every now and then the Governor would say, “If you don’t need to evacuate, you should stay where you are.”  So the vast majority of Floridians should have stayed where they were.

There is a season for Hurricanes

Unlike earthquakes, which seem to be random, Hurricanes only occur during Hurricane season, usually from September through November.  During the Summer, the Atlantic Ocean warms up above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  This creates the conditions necessary for the development of hurricanes.

The nice thing about hurricanes is that you get more than a week’s warning that they’re coming.  Now up until this year, most people ignored hurricanes until about 48 hours before they hit.  Then there would be gas shortages and people would strip the grocery stores of food and water.  This year, with Irma, people started freaking out more than a week before.

The bottom line is that the right time to prepare for a hurricane is before hurricane season.  In fact, National Hurricane Preparedness Week is the second week in May.  But I know you’re a procrastinator like me, so I’m declaring June 25, Heymanator Hurricane Preparedness day.  So let’s look at how you can be prepared to live without power.  In this article we’ll talk about some creature comforts: food, phones, and tablets, and fans.

Your Refrigerator/Freezer will stay cold for at least 2 days

For some reason, the vast majority of my friends seem to think that if food has softened at all in the freezer it should be thrown out.  So let’s review a little thermodynamics.

  • Your freezer is usually around 0 degrees F
  • Your fridge is usually around 40 degrees F.
  • Water freezes at 32 degrees F AND melts at 32 degrees F.

This means that, if still have a single formed ice cube in your freezer, then your freezer did not go higher than 32 degrees, and your food is safe!  On average, an unplugged refrigerator should keep cold for about 2 days.

Even if you have a generator, you don’t need to run it 24/7.  Running it for 2 hours twice a day should be enough to keep your food perfectly cold.

Strategies to make the most of your Fridge/Freezer

Before the storm

  • If you have a lot of space in your freezer, fill up jugs or bags of water and freeze them.
  • Identify items that can be sacrificed in case of power failure (for example that ham hock you’ve planning on making into soup for the past 2 years.)
  • Get out some old blankets.  Once you lose power, you can put them on top of the fridge to insulate it.

After you lose power

  • Take the ice cream out of the freezer and eat it.
  • Put your milk and other easily spoilables into the spot in the freezer opened up by the ice cream.
  • Cover up the fridge with the blankets to increase its insulation.

You don’t need a generator

If you have a car, you already have all the generator you need to power your refrigerator (and charge your cell phone and tablets).  All you need is an inverter.  The average energy star refrigerator will draw somewhere between 150-200 watts when running, but takes 750-800 watts when starting up.

SO… you’ll need at least a 400 watt inverter (most inverters can handle a surge double their rating, although YMMV), but it’s safer to go with an 800 watt inverter.  The important thing to remember is that a car’s cigarette lighter socket will only allow ~150 watts to be drawn.  Try to run your refrigerator through it, and you’ll likely blow a fuse.  Instead, you’ll need to use alligator clips to attach the inverter directly to your battery.

But before we get to the nuts and bolts, let’s talk generalities.  An idling car or SUV uses about 0.2-0.5 gallons of gas per hour.  So if you run your car for two hours twice a day to power your refrigerator, then you’ll use between 1 and 2 gallons of gas.  This isn’t quite as efficient as a dedicated generator, but then again, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to buy a $50 inverter and make $15 cables than even the cheapest generator.

And you can take the inverter with you on your next road trip and use it to do all sorts of fun things in the car like let your kids play Xbox.  Or make coffee while camping because you were too lazy to learn how to use a French Press.  And let’s not forget that an inverter is much smaller and easier to store than a generator.

So, after the storm passes you by, you…

  1. pull your car out of the garage,
  2. pop the hood,
  3. leave the car running,
  4. connect your inverter to the battery using the cables,
  5. run a heavy duty extension cord to your refrigerator.
  6. While you’re at it, maybe you should charge up your iPad, Kindle, phone, and maybe your laptop too.
  7. Heck run some fans to help keep you cool maybe this cheap personal fan running 35 watts max or this whole room Vornado fan running 65 watts max.

When you’re done running your refrigerator, you can unplug it, turn your car off, and keep charging your cell phones and ipad.

Note: when running your refrigerator, take the covers off.  Then put them back on when you’re done.

What Inverter should I get?

Pro tip: get a 1×4 that’s long enough to lay across the hood of your car/suv.  Then mount the inverter to the board.  Wrap some old t shirts around the ends of the board to protect your car’s finish from the board and prevent it from sliding.  Now when you need to use the inverter, you won’t have to balance it on top of the engine.  You just lay the board across the car after opening the hood.

What kind of inverter should you get?  Steven Harris (whose advice much of this article is based on) recommends the following brands/models.  He particularly likes the Whistler because supposedly it can handle double its rated power draw for up to 10 seconds.  But it’s a little pricier.  Yes, these are the same brands that make radar detectors.

Note that when using 800 – 1600 watt inverters, you’re going to need to use much heavier gauge wire and keep the wire as short as possible (<3 feet).  Either 0 or 2 gauge wire is recommended for 1600 watts, and 0 gauge if you’re going above 1600 watts.  It’s cheapest to buy the wire by the foot from Lowes or Home Depot, and then put ring connectors on them yourself (or buy something like this).  None of the 800 watt and up inverters listed come with wires.

Can you please sum this up? tl;dr

  • Get an 800 to 1600 watt inverter
  • Get a heavy duty extension cord (without lighted ends is better if you’re planning on using the inverter with the car off.)
  • Run your car for 2 hours and use the inverter to power your stuff.
    • Start the refrigerator first by itself because it draws more power when starting up.
    • Once it’s running you can plug your other stuff in.
  • After 2 hours, unplug the refrigerator and

Note: you can use this method to run your TV and Cable box too but ONLY do that when the care is running.

In the next installment of this series, I’ll talk a bit about generators.

Acknowledgements.

I first learned about this technique from The Survival Podcast interview with Steven Harris.

The Amazon links in this article are affiliate links, and if you buy through them, I’ll get a small commission.  If you’d prefer to support Steven Harris instead of me, you can go through his links at Solar1234.com or you can support Jack Spirko (The Survival Podcast) by buying through his Amazon links.

24 hours of feasting

24 hours of feasting

Okay, okay.  It’s more like 8 hours of eating, since I intermittent fast (basically just skip breakfast).

One of the things that helped convince me that I could handle this diet thing was 24 hour eating videos.  I didn’t actually video myself eating today, but I ate what seems like an enormous amount and still kept it under 1800 calories.  So I’m going to share all of the food that I ate today.  If you’re new to this whole tracking your calories thing, try logging the food here in MyFitnessPal to check my work.

I woke up at 7 am and then went back to sleep until 8.  Then I took care of the kids while Jen got her hair done.  The kids and I started playing computer games, and it was 1pm before Jen got back home.

Snack/Breakfast

At 1:30, I had a Diet Cherry Dr Pepper and a banana.  It was 121g without the peel.  That was enough to stave off my hunger for another hour while I got the kids fed and made lunch for Jen and me.

Lunch

By the time lunch was done, and I sat down to eat, it was 2:30.  I had

  • 400g of chicken breast (weighed raw).  Slice it lengthwise so you get two thinner pieces.  Salt both sides and sprinkle with Ranch powder.  Sautee said chicken in 2g of Kerry Gold butter.
  • 369g of Russet potato wedges. (I estimate 1 tsp of olive oil)
  • 54g of Ketchup
  • 100g steamed broccoli
  • One Choceur (Aldi’s brand) Milk Chocolate Caramel

Macros for lunch

  • 1051 calories (including the banana)
  • 107g protein
  • 123g carb
  • 13g fat

Dinner

I actually planned out dinner before lunch.  Corban had asked for Taco Friday a couple days ago, so I already had a pretty good idea of what I was going to eat. Instead of a taco, I made mine into taco salad.  Started cooking around 6:45 and finished eating around 7:30.

  • 4 oz organic grass fed ground beef (from Aldis) with taco seasoning and 25g of onion
  • Finlandia reduced fat cheddar (2 slices)
  • Tomatoes 100g
  • 5 black olives (sliced)
  • Friendly Farms Brand Nonfat Greek Yogurt 80g (different brands of Greek yogurt vary wildly in their protein/sugar content; this brand has the most protein and least sugar of all I’ve tried)
  • Little bit of taco sauce
  • Kirkland Organic Tortilla Chips 28g

I didn’t track the taco seasoning or the lettuce.  This is a great flavorful (albeit relatively small meal).  You could use sour cream or low fat sour cream, but I use the Greek Yogurt mostly for its protein content to hit my macros.

Macros for Dinner

  • Calories 594
  • Protein 45g
  • Carbs 29g
  • Fat 34g

Dessert

After dinner, I went for a walk.  After walking, I had dessert (about 8:30).  I’m still 10g of protein short, so it’s time to Release the Secret Weapon!!

Halo Top Ice Cream!

This stuff is some kind of magic.  One cup of ranges from 120-180 calories (about half the calories of normal ice cream) AND it has relatively high protein (10-14g per cup).  AND it tastes really good.  Here in South Florida, you can buy it at Target, Walmart, and Publix.  Someone I know in Tarpon Springs says his Costco carries it (sadly, mine does not).  People also report buying it at Krogers (we don’t have any down here).

I’ve been working my way through the flavors.  Tonight was S’mores.  I rank it third of the three flavors I’ve tried so far.  It has small chocolate chips in it, and they get stuck in my teeth (same reason I don’t like mint chip).  So far, my favorite flavor is cookie dough followed by peanut butter cup.  Once I’ve tried all the flavors I can get locally, I’ll post my full ranking.

Macros for Dessert

  • Calories 160
  • Protein 10g
  • Carbs 32g
  • Fat 5g

Halo Top Alternatives

Okay, you don’t actually have to buy specialty ice cream.  You could have gotten the same effect from eating 50 more grams of chicken breast and 2 Oreo cookies.  Regular ice cream can also be an option, but you only get to have half a cup (usually about 100g) for 130 -160 calories.  The nice thing about the specialty ice creams is that you can eat more of it than traditional ice cream, so you feel less deprived.  And the extra protein does mean that you can be a bit more flexible with the rest of your day.

So here are a couple other low calorie Ice Creams/Yogurts

  • Yasso makes several different products.  The one I’ve had is a cookie dough frozen yogurt bar.  It’s 100 calories and has 5g of protein.  Tastes very good.  They have them at Walmart and BJs near me.
  • Englightened produces a low calorie, high protein ice cream and ice cream bar.  I haven’t personally eaten them yet, but a friend says he likes them better than Halo Top.

Final notes

My total calorie count for the day is 1771 calories with 159g protein, but I’m probably over estimating my fat intake since I drained the taco meat and overestimate my oil spray.  On the other hand, I didn’t log the Ranch powder, taco seasoning, or lettuce.

Perfect Potato Wedges

The key to great potato wedges is not to wedge them.  Instead, slice them.  That way the pieces are uniform thickness, so they’ll be the same done-ness throughout.  I get pretty much perfect results using this recipe/technique every time.

Ingredients:

  • Russet  potato
  • Oil of choice (I like to use cooking spray as the potatoes don’t stick as much with it)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Other spices as desired

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Slice the potato into approximately 1/4 inch slices
  • Spread/Spray small amount of oil on a small sheet pan.
  • Sprinkle oiled pan with salt.
  • Place potato wedges on pan and press into oil.
  • Spread/Spray a small amount of oil on top of the wedges.
  • Salt, pepper, and use any additional spices (rosemary would be nice)
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the wedges and cook an additional 10 minutes*.
  • Remove, and allow to cool long enough not to burn your mouth.
  • Serve and eat.

*10 minutes works 90% of the time.  If the slices are thicker than usual, or if you live at high elevation, try letting them go for another 5 minutes.  The tops should be brown.  If you see the tops blister, then pull them out; they’re done.

Calories/Macros

When I used to make this with coconut oil or olive oil, I used about half a teaspoon of oil.  With the cooking spray, the bottle is anywhere from 0-5 grams lighter after using it.  Either way, you’re talking probably less than 3-4 grams of fat (30ish calories).  So the vast majority of calories come from the potato.

Even a massive 350g potato only has 62g of carbohydrates and 260 calories (including a bonus of 7g of protein).  Compare that to 350g of French Fries (using Wendy’s fries as a comparison) with 1192 calories (partly because cooked potatoes have less water).  Okay, let’s do an apple to apple…uh…potato to potato comparison.  If you eat the same amount of carbohydrate (62g) of French Fries, you get 475 calories.

So the potato wedges have about 200 calories less than an equivalent amount of fries due to the lower amount of fat.  This let’s you eat more chocolate!

Swiss Chard au Gratin

Swiss Chard au Gratin

Who knew that Swiss chard was amazingly awesome and delicious?  I didn’t…until we got some from one of those “meal box” services.  So I had to cook it, and it turned out to be so good that I’ve made the dish four more times.  So without further ado, here’s the recipe.  I’ve modified it to have slightly less fat (as I prefer to eat mine in the form of chocolate).

Ingredients:

  • One bunch Swiss Chard (rainbow or single color)
  • 8 oz of cubed butternut squash (we use the frozen organic stuff from BJs)
  • Onion or shallot diced
  • One clove garlic minced
  • 2 oz shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup of milk (preferably whole)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Cut the stems off of the Swiss chard and chop into pieces about the same size as the squash or onion
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the chard stems and onion and a large pinch of salt.
  4. While the stems and onion saute, slice the chard leaves into smaller pieces (I usually go about 1.5 – 2 inch squares)
  5. When the stems and onion has softened, add the garlic, and thyme.  Stir until squash begins to soften.
  6. Add the huge pile of chard leaves and more salt.  Turn until it wilts (about 2-3 minutes)
  7. Stir in the gruyere and milk. Turn the heat to low and allow to thicken a minute or two.
  8. Taste the sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Transfer the mixture to a small casserole dish and top with panko bread crumbs.
  10. Cook covered for 10 minutes and then uncovered for 5-7 minutes until bread crumbs are brown
  11. Remove from oven and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

You’re welcome.

I usually eat half the recipe.  Macros on this are approximately:

  • 365 calories
  • 16g protein
  • 36g carbs
  • 19g fat

And yes, you just ate half of that enormous bunch of greens.  Don’t you feel so healthy?  Almost virtuous.

Earlier I mentioned that this came from a food box service.  Jen and I have tried several of these including HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Sun Basket, and Plated.  By far, my favorite one is Plated where this recipe came from, and the top photo is from their recipe card.  Apparently there’s no way for me to refer you to them and get credit for it, so this post is free of commercial interest.

Livin la Vida Extreme Sports addition

Although I’m known at work as a mild-mannered pharmacology nerd with mad computer skillz, my first love is “extreme” sports and physical challenges.  Recently, Jen treated me to two fun physical challenges, flying trapeze and flyboarding.  Here are the videos:

Flyboarding

This was my first time flyboarding. It’s really fun, but has a bit of a learning curve.  This video is the result of a 25 minute session cut down to two and a half minutes.  The key is to somehow lock your ankles and knees but keep your body relaxed.  You can see on my better attempts that my ankles/feet stay in the same position.  On my less stable attempts, you can see how unstable my ankle angle is.  I hear that the second and third time sessions are dramatically easier than the first attempt.  It’ll be fun to do this again.  This was at SoFlo Flyboarding. Kids have to be 80 lbs minimum.  Can’t wait till the kids are little heavier…Jen! Can we feed Logan more?

Flying Trapeze

This was actually my second time doing the trapeze, but the first time was more than two years ago.  This was an Aerial Trapeze Academy Groupon.  With the Groupon, you only get to do the beginner session, which is three practice swings, where you try to get into the knee hang/transfer position.  If you can successfully get into that position, then on the fourth swing, you get to to try for a mid air catch.  They also do birthday parties and private groups.  Kids can do it as young as 4 years old, and they work with autistic kids.  Once you’ve done the beginner session, you can do more advanced stuff.  This is really easy and fun if you have any amount of athleticism/body control.  Highly recommended. PSA: Hanging from the bar with your knees can give you friction burns.  If you have leggings or tights, you should wear them.