New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Great American Supermarket Games - The Bureaucratic Maze Game & Bioterrorism Political Scare Tactic

Ok we have covered the more common ‘games’ that supermarkets play so now it is time to check on government and industry safety standards.

The Bureaucratic Maze Game

Food safety and quality in the United States is governed by no less than 30 federal laws and regulations administered by 15 federal agencies and additional state and local agencies. 

Numerous federal, state and local agencies share responsibilities for regulating the safety of the U.S. food supply. Federal responsibility for food safety rests primarily with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

FDA, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for ensuring the safety of all domestic and imported food products (except for most meats and poultry). FDA also has oversight of all seafood, fish, and shellfish products.  In many cases, the food safety functions of the FDA and USDA overlap; particularly inspection/enforcement, training, research, and rulemaking, for both domestic and imported food. Both USDA and FDA currently conduct similar inspections at some 1,500 dual jurisdiction establishments (facilities that produce foods regulated by both agencies).

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates most meat and poultry and some egg products.

State and local food safety authorities collaborate with federal agencies for inspection and other food safety functions, and they regulate retail food establishments.  Restaurants and other retail food establishments (like supermarkets) fall under state law and are regulated by state or local health departments. Typically these regulations require official inspections of specific design features, best food-handling practices and certification of food handlers.

Role of the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control leads federal efforts to gather data on foodborne illnesses, investigate foodborne illnesses and outbreaks and monitor the effectiveness of prevention and control efforts in reducing foodborne illnesses. CDC also plays a key role in building state and local health department epidemiology, laboratory, and environmental health capacity to support foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak response.

Role NIH

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services External Web Site Policy, is the nation’s medical research agency—making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. NIH is made up of 27 Institutes and Centers, each with a specific research agenda, often focusing on particular diseases or body systems. NIH leadership plays an active role in shaping the agency's research planning, activities, and outlook. More than 80% of the NIH's budget goes to more than 300,000 research personnel at over 2,500 universities and research institutions. In addition, about 6,000 scientists work in NIH’s own Intramural Research laboratories, most of which are on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The main campus is also home to the NIH Clinical Center, the largest hospital in the world totally dedicated to clinical research.  When it comes to our food safety NIH gets involved, along with the CDC, when an outbreak occurs.

Differing Authorities

All of the federal laws on food safety empower the USDA and FDA with different regulatory and enforcement authorities which come into play at every point in our food supply line, are misleading and somewhat sporatic.

For example, food products under FDA's jurisdiction may be sold to the public without the agency's prior approval. On the other hand, food products under USDA's jurisdiction must generally be inspected and approved as meeting federal standards before being marketed.

Under current law, UDSA ‘continuously’ (right) inspects slaughter facilities and examines each slaughtered meat and poultry carcass. They also visit each processing facility at least once during each operating day. For foods under FDA's jurisdiction, however, federal law does not mandate the frequency of these inspections.

Add the Bioterrorism Political Scare Tactic

We know that not only is ‘mental instability’ on the rise, but that it is most frequently used by the ‘fanatics’ of this world that can’t get attention or power any other way.  So in typical human fashion, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, our government had the federal food safety agencies began taking on the added responsibility of addressing the potential for deliberate contamination of agriculture and food products, AKA bioterrorism. 

An executive order issued by President George W. Bush in 2001 added the food industry to the list of ‘critical sectors’ that need protection from possible terrorist attack. As a result of this order, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 established the Department of Homeland Security, which now provides overall ‘coordination’ for ‘protecting’ the U.S. food supply from deliberate contamination, as well as all other U.S. infrastructures. 

Nothing really wrong with this until you realize that the Patriot Act allows DHS, under a declaration of National Emergency, to by-pass the three branches of our government and act independently of our government to ‘protect’ the United States.

The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 granted the FDA additional food safety enforcement authorities similar to those of the USDA.

Recently, in the United States, a process called Country of Origin Labeling (or COOL) was required by the USDA. This can let you, the consumer, know more about where your produce is coming from and is utilized by DHS to track possible bioterrorism to our imported food supplies.

 Inefficiency Issues

Couple this with the corporatization of all levels of the food industry and trends in U.S. food markets (for example, increasing imports as a share of U.S. food consumptions and increasing consumption of fresh, often unprocessed, foods) results in most of these regulations being placed either on the farmer/rancher or the point of sale.  The problem here is that the last 20 years of outbreaks of food-borne illness in the U.S. have occurred primarily in between these two points or from imports alone.

Next remember that the more layers to any organizational structure, the more expenses and the slower the response.  So the more all these federal, state, local and industry regulations are imposed, the more expensive the end product becomes.  Plus we all know that too many cooks can spoil the soup – so with each bureaucratic layer and contention, more and more ‘bad’ food is making it into our daily food supply.  And that is without corruption and graft thrown into the mix!

Food Safety Costs

What this all means is that all this regulation and labeling costs us money, many times twice or more over.  How so?  

Every time our food, in any format, is touched or handled there are already regulations that must be met, reported and or inspected to quantify that these regulations have been met.  Each and every time this done, there is an expense and that expense is passed on to the consumer at point-of-sale.  Example:

  • The farm/ranch has to meet and report on certain regulations to some government entity, if not more than one, to quantify these regulations are being complied with. 
  • If the item is imported it has to meet and report on certain regulations to some government entity, if not more than one, to quantify these regulations are being complied with. 
  • Any transportation of any food item in any form must meet and report on certain regulations to some government entity if not more than one, to quantify these regulations are being complied with. 
  • Any processing of any food item in any form must meet and report on certain regulations to some government entity if not more than one, to quantify these regulations are being complied with. 
  • Anything done to or around these food items that has not already been identified above, must meet and report on certain regulations to some government entity if not more than one, to quantify these regulations are being complied with.  This means that all these ‘dangerous’ chemical and pharmaceutical usages are being tracked by other regulations outside the food industry.

Labeling regulations currently include, and is not limited to:  Organic, nutrition information, ingredient information and country of origin information. 

Now say we want ‘honest labeling’ on any human GMO product and/or  ingredient, or a list of the herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, gases and like used, to be labeled – this will incur regulation quantification monies to prove complicity.

Although I have been unable to find any actual cost analysis of labeling and regulation expenses, we can use some deductive, logical reasoning to guesstimate the cost:

  • The cost of actually putting this information on the label or packaging itself is miniscule at best, as proven by the number of times producers and suppliers currently change the labeling and packaging without a change in price of the product.
  • Many of the corporations that are complaining about and fighting any type of new ‘truth in labeling’ regulation on the basis of cost, are in my book, bogus at best and outright lies at worst.  How?  Think about this:
Most of these chemicals, pharmaceuticals, gases and copyrighted products are already being tracked by not just the corporation producing them, but by all entities that utilize them, since these items are considered either dangerous in some way (and already regulated, inspected or tracked for some kind of safety or national security reason) or because the corporation owning the copyright wants to be sure they can press charges against any violators of said copyright.

This means that if these additional labeling regulations were applied, the cost increase would be minimal; because the government can already utilize the information needed to quantify complaisance from its other government entities and/or the corporate entities themselves, since they are already tracking and recording this information.

Bottom line:  The overall cost increase of food items due to a ‘truth in labeling’ regulation would be minimal and the greatest increase would be due to bureaucratic inefficiency.
Keep in mind that these combined efforts of the food industry and government regulatory agencies are some of the reasons the U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world.  However, this situation of organizational complexity, comprised of shared government responsibilities; added to laws that can allow a government entity to by-pass the rest of government, creates not only budget and control battles between the various agencies; it lends itself to the ultimate corruption of said government, straight into the arms of tyranny.  And this is on top of our federal governments overall mentality to “control the people”.

Where our choice in food products is stifled is with the lack of ‘truth in labeling’ in the U.S..  There are NO labeling requirements to know if food was: grown with fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides; if it has been pre-gassed or frozen; or if it is human-genetically modified in any way.  Without ‘truth in labeling’ we don’t even know if the item is waxed or sprayed, if it has been pre-frozen or had hormones, antibiotics, saline solution or food dye added to meats and seafood, etc.  It is in this area that the U.S. governance is lacking, our health is at risk and our inalienable right of CHOICE is shackled.

Next posting will be on some General Grocery Store Safety and Cost Saving Tips.

See ya next year ;-}


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Oh Yes - Here We Go Again!

"Flies create garbage the same as guns create crime"

To control crime via the method of depriving the tools of crime, we better start banning from civilian use not only firearms but: vehicles, bats, golf clubs, fireplace pokers, crowbars, 2 X 4's, bricks, hammers, mallets, screwdrivers and other tools, eating utensils, toothbrushes, pipes, anything glass, knick knacks, statues, bird baths, knitting/crochet needles and any other strikable or stabable object - to name just a few ...

The truth is that NO law, act, bill, declaration, directive, executive order or treaty has EVER PREVENTED a crime.  We will NEVER EVER be able to keep the tools of a criminals trade away from them by outlawing them. Remember Prohibition, it didn't work to reduce drunkenness or crime; in fact it increased it.

It is the sicko and criminal that commits crime, not the tool of the person committing the crime.  If we want to reduce crime; we must reduce the sickos and criminals; to do that we need to identify them and put them where they cannot be a threat to the rest of us law abiding and Creator loving people.

Our country was founded on the principle that each and every one of us have 'inalienable rights' given to us by God the Creator and they cannot be taken away from us by ANY human-made government. 

All of our founding documents have one common theme: 
The freedom of choice within the constraints of the 10 Commandments.   Because of this I will defend any US citizen's right to NOT own a firearm, as strongly as I will defend any US citizen's right TO own a firearm.  I will defend this inalienable right of personal choice with my last breath.

Since 2009 (according to the FBI crime stats, CDC, WHO & Census stats) each year suicide now 'kills' more US citizens than vehicle accidents. Homicides (including ones WITHOUT firearms) are NOT even in the top 10 causes of mortality of US citizens.

So yes, let us remember those taken from us by sickos and criminals and start attacking the root cause - the sickos and criminals!

PS - Since 1974 I have been a non-designated voter.  I will NOT support the Democrats or Republicans with monies or my vote.  They are flip sides of the same coin and have hijacked our representative government, debased the dollar, increased debt and inflation and pass laws for a federal dictatorship!  My tax dollars should go to NO political party!!!  Belonging and supporting a political party is a CHOICE and should not be dictated!

"Today is the Tomorrow that we worried about Yesterday"

"Politicians and diapers must be changed often and for the same reason"  Mark Twain

e have given you a Republic, if you can keep it."  Benjamin Franklin

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Great American Supermarket Games-Dates Game, Smells, Sights and Cooties and the Non-grocery Product Game

Sorry to be ‘tardy’ on getting this next installment of the Supermarket Games to you.  I have no excuses, except that I was human and let time get away from me.  So here goes it ...

The Dates Game

Another area with little to no regulation, yet alone standardization are the ‘Use by’ and ‘Sell By’ dates.  Except for baby formula and food, product expiration dates are not required by Federal regulations (some states, however, have their own rules requiring product dating).  What is even more shocking is that according to Dr. Oz, “many foods come with a use-by date established by the manufacturer, which cannot be changed.  However you may also notice a use-by date added on by the retailer on foods that they process and package.” And guess what? Retailers are allowed to change that date as many times as they’d like until the product sells!

  • The “Best if Used By” date is more of a suggestion than a safety issue—the food will taste best if eaten by the date on the label, but won’t necessarily be unsafe if eaten after that.
  • The “Sell-By” date generally means that that is how long the store should display it.

If all of this sounds fishy, keep in mind that the food industry is designed to move massive amounts of food in order to make a profit, so retailers will continue selling their products until they look green and moldy. In many cases, the only way to tell whether a use-by date was placed by the manufacturer or the supermarket itself is to ask your grocer. It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but your health is worth it.

Smells, Sights and Cooties – oh my!

Another interesting tidbit is that there are no restrictions on who can fumble through all the products and produce on the shelves. So not only are you taking home produce that’s been handled by other customers, it was put out there by store employees, the person who unpacked the box and in some cases even the person who picked it. There’s no telling who has touched the produce or where their hands have been. So, if you need a snack and opt for something quick out of the produce department, be certain you wash it thoroughly—even if it’s organic.  Remember that these ‘cootie’ conditions apply to the shopping carts as well as all the other products in jars, jugs, cans and other transferable surfaces. 

According to studies done by Gerba and his colleagues at University of Arizona, shopping carts had more bacteria than other surfaces they tested—even more than escalators, public phones and public bathrooms. "These bacteria may be coming from raw foods or from children who sit in the carts," says Chuck Gerba, Ph.D., a microbiologist at University of Arizona. "Just think about the fact that a few minutes ago, some kid's bottom was where you are now putting your broccoli." To avoid picking up nasty bacteria, Gerba recommends using sanitizing wipes to clean off cart handles and seats, and to wash your hands after you finish shopping. 

Kinda explains those ‘wet wipes’ you see scattered throughout the store doesn’t it!

The Non-grocery Product Game
Non-grocery convenience items such as medicine, motor oil, office supplies and light bulbs are often over priced compared to other department stores (like Walmart, Kmat or Target).  We pay for not having to go to another store while we ‘run in for some milk’.

Many supermarkets now have ATM Machines and most supermarkets also let you pay for your order using ATM cards. What a lot of people still do not know is that instead of paying the fee for withdrawing money from your bank account using the ATM you can simply purchase something from the store, use your debit card to purchase it and ask for additional cash back.

Ok we have covered the more common ‘games’ that supermarkets play so now it is time to check on government and industry safety standards; the next installment will be on the Bureaucratic Maze Game.

Until then think about this time of year ... we have made it past the Mayan Calendar and the Winter Soltice and are on the downhill slide into spring and re-birth, as well as a spiritual time of year too.  December is filled with celebrations around the world.  Like:

Hanukkah, which is the Hebrew word for dedication, honors the victory of the Jews over the Greek Syrians in 165 BC. After their victory, the Maccabees, sons of the family that led the revolt, entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and dedicated it to the service of their God. When the Maccabees entered the temple, they found only enough lamp oil to last one night, but the oil somehow managed to burn for the whole eight days it took to go in search for more oil. Therefore, Hanukkah is observed over eight days.

I already mentioned the Winter solstice. It's the shortest day of the year, because of the earth's tilt. The winter solstice is the solstice that occurs in winter. It is the time at which the Sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon.  In the Northern Hemisphere this is the Southern solstice, the time at which the Sun is at its southernmost point in the sky, which usually occurs on December 21 to 22 each year. In the Southern Hemisphere this is the Northern solstice, the time at which the Sun is at its northernmost point in the sky, which usually occurs on June 20 to 21 each year.

Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. No one knows the exact date of Christ's birth but in the 4th Century, Pope Julius I chose December 25th as the day of celebration. It's a holiday that's celebrated in a variety of ways around the world. In recent times, Christmas has become a holiday that is largely commercial, with everyone eagerly anticipating the arrival of St. Nick, but for Christians around the world, Christmas is a special and holy time to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ.

The first Boxing Day is believed to have started in the Middle Ages. This is just a guess because the exact date isn't known. How Boxing Day started is a question as well. Some say it started with the giving of Christmas boxes, while others think it was named after the tradition of opening charity boxes placed in churches during the Christmas season. Either way, it's now known as one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Kwanzaa; Although some people believe this holiday is a substitute for Christmas, it is not a religious holiday. It is celebrated every year on December 26th. Kwanzaa, which means "first fruit of the harvest" in Swahili, is a time to focus on the traditional African values of family. It is based upon the celebration of seven principles or beliefs called the Nguzo Saba and was created by Ron Karenga in 1966 to celebrate African-American heritage.

And of course New Year's. The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4,000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, Babylonians celebrated the beginning of a new year on what is now March 23rd, although they had no written calendar. It wasn't until 153 BC that the Roman senate declared January 1st to be the beginning of the new year.

Whatever your spiritual or festive inclination, do take the time to value all that we do have, thank your Higher Power and get ready for spring with a smile on your face.

May the Creator bless you and yours always ;-}


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Great American Supermarket Games- Lighting Game, the Life Style Game, the Freezing Switch-a-roo and Pricing Games

The Lighting Game

Just as our favorite Hollywood star looks better under certain lights, so does our food! Supermarkets actually spotlight foods with different lights to make them seem more appealing, using red lights near the meat section and green lights in the produce section. In most states this practice is a violation of the food code, but it’s difficult to enforce because the health inspector must prove it was done intentionally. If you notice any of these lights in your grocery store, beware!  Inspect your produce and meat under a white light before buying to ensure you’re getting the freshest, healthiest selections possible.

Next time you’re strolling the aisles, pay attention to the sensory sensations your supermarket uses to seduce you: The smell of brewing coffee and donuts, colored lighting around meats and or produce, the colorful signage around the DVDs near the checkout – even the music is designed to make you reach for your wallet. During quiet business hours, supermarkets play slower music, hoping it will cause you to linger and buy more.  On average, these supermarket tricks alone can cause you to spend $50 more per trip. Be sure to walk in with a list – and stick to it!

Yep the layout of the store and the placement of the products results in mega bucks for the corporation’s (not the farmer or rancher of the base ingredients).  How so?  Well take 10 million shoppers a day tacking on an extra $10.00 to their final purchase, which has an end result of a billion dollar a day industry!  Truth is that research indicates that on average we spend an extra $50 per supermarket trip when all these tactics are applied.

The Life Style Game

Taking advantage of our ‘busy lives’ we see produce items that are already cut up and neatly arranged in a disposable serving tray or ready for cooking or salads.  At the meat counter, chicken breasts and beef are cut into chunks and marinated—ready for immediate grilling. There's no denying that these pre-cut foods can make life incredibly easy. And nutritionists agree that if they get people to eat more healthfully, there's nothing wrong with them. But realize that you're also paying a tremendous premium—sometimes up to twice as much as uncut versions of the same food—just so you don't have to bother picking up a knife.
That prepared food you buy from the deli comes off the shelves of the store and many aren’t picking the freshest options. Instead, they’ll choose the foods that are closest to their expiration date, saving themselves money. A better bet: cooking and making it for yourself.

The ‘butcher counter’ could be cheaper! Common meat items like store brand bacon are usually cheaper at the ‘butcher’ counter than prepackaged in the ‘on display’ refrigerated meat area and it’s the same meat. 

The Freezing Switch-a-roo
Did you know that what you think is fresh could be months old?  That’s right, after being kept in a freezer at a distribution center for months to prevent aging, breads are finally thawed to put on display. This is known as “parbaking”.  Similarly, meat and seafood is frozen before reaching the supermarket, but then thawed to look fresh in the market’s freezer or meat/seafood department. The problem here is that this opens a wider door for bacterial exposure and growth. Think twice before stocking up on meat, only to freeze it and be sure to use that bread quickly.

A lot of returns and other items accumulate throughout the store in a given day. The cashiers usually are the ones to put these away when there is down-time. With perishables most clerks would just do the "feel test" if it feels cold then they put it back on the shelf, if it feels warm they will mark it damaged and will not put it back.  What this means is that you could be purchasing perishables that have been defrosted.  The best hint I can tell you is look at the package for signs of possible defrost.

Pricing Games

Supermarkets want you to think that they have across-the-board low prices, which is often not true.  Many stores use a mix of highly advertised items sold at cost, then some at 5% above cost and others at 10%, 15% and 20%.  By keeping it confusing, stores can create the illusion that everything is at a rock bottom price.

Another trick supermarkets play on us is the sale tags. For example when you don't know the general price on an item and then you see it with a sale tag you automatically think you are getting a deal and probably buy it when it is actually the same price. They do this with the name brand products that sit right beside the generic.  So let’s say you buy a single unit of yogurt for .45 cents, then you see a more popular name brand on sale for .10 cents off the regular price which costs .55 cents, so you grab a couple of those thinking you have just scored a deal, though you haven't, the store just got the same amount of money out of you and that's the bottom line.  It’s not what you buy, rather it is how much you spend.

Next take a look at the 2 for 1 concept, etc.  You see an item, whether it be for daily use or a specialty buy and the store has a sale tag stating 10 units for 4 dollars.  This subliminally suggests to us, the consumer, not only to buy this great deal but to buy a quantity of it when you normally buy a couple at a time.   Now take a closer look and remember the yogurt comparison.  The generic brand is on sale at 10 for 4 dollars, while the popular brand offers 10 units at 6 dollars.  So being the smart consumer, you grab 10 of the generic,  only you had budgeted for just the two you normally buy.  So when you planned on spending less than a dollar for some yogurt you ended up spending three times as much.  How much was the unit on sale for again?  If you had stuck to your regular needs of only two you would have saved .10 cents versus spending 4 dollars.

Who can resist an offer like "buy five, get one free," “10 for $10” or "three for $1"?  Apparently, very few of us can.  "Any time you see numbers in a sign, you're likely to buy at least 30 percent more than you may have purchased otherwise. So if you go looking for soup and the sign says 'limit 12 per person,' chances are you’ll purchase several more cans than you intended to buy".  And of course, if you buy more than you need, it's not necessarily a bargain.  Or worse yet, it could lead to over-indulging. "Mindless shopping leads to mindless eating," says Wansink. "Once the stuff is in the house, you'll eat it whether you really want it or not."

Next time you see a sign promoting a “Manger’s Special” it might be helpful to instead imagine it reading, “This food is old and we need to get rid of it.” These lower prices come from the fact that the products on sale have been on the shelf for quite some time. Generally these items should be avoided.  At the very least you need to "look" for the expiration dates on sale items, especially when they are marked down 70% or more and use the product in the next day or two.

The oldest of the pricing games is the use of 9.  Just take a look at all the $.29, 1.89 etc pricing.  Legally the seller of this item can say the product is ‘under 2 dollars’ or ‘for less than 30 cents’.

 The Rewards Card - Is it really? What a lot of people do not know is that when you have a ‘rewards card’ for a store that this card is being used to track your buying habits.  Every time your card is swiped the supermarket keeps a record of what you bought.  They use this information for market research.  If you are interested in more on this topic you can find it at: .  Now this can be good and bad.  On the good side the store can keep stocked with items they see you purchase regularly.  On the bad side, they now have an ‘in’ to your personal eating habits.

Thankfully most stores that use the ‘rewards card’ do actually offer savings, not much, but in this economy every penny counts.

Remember I said that ‘fresh’ has no legal definition in the U.S.?  Good now think about this - Deliveries to supermarkets don’t typically happen on weekends.  Wednesday is usually the day to shop for the freshest food.

According to Progressive Grocer, only 11% of shoppers go to the store on Wednesdays and only 4% of customers shop after 9 p.m. Why does this matter? This means that stuff purchased on Mondays is likely several days old. Wednesday is generally when supermarket shelves are stocked with fresh products and that means we should avoid shopping on Mondays.

Next time I'll cover the Dates Game, Smells, Sights and Cooties and the Non-grocery Product Game