Being prepared is a lot more than just having 5 years worth of freeze dried food and fire starters stashed away. In fact, I daresay it doesn’t have much of anything to do with your stash so much as your mentality. Yes, there’s a place of importance in the prepper world for having stocks put up but for newbies, many put it off because they believe they need to spend loads of money to be ‘prepped.’ I want to dispel that belief! You can start prepping where you are and with what you already have.
Before we dive in to the details, let’s establish what preparedness means. Dictionary.com defines it as “A state of readiness.” Clear as mud, right? A state of readiness for what, exactly? That’s something that each person will have to define for themselves. There’s really only one true “one size fits all” prepper plan but how that plan is executed is largely variant depending on the people. To be prepared is to be ready for something that will disrupt your normal routine. Having the things you need to survive and the skills needed to get them is the goal.
Notice I didn’t say “Go buy everything you need and build a bunker!” That’s wholly unrealistic and chances are pretty good that if you’re reading this, you’re looking for options that don’t put you into debt. I have some solutions that come from my own beginning journey into preparedness. Tried and true and worked for me! Though not all of it will work for everyone, one of the biggest and most important things to ‘being prepared’ is the ability to adapt, overcome, and make do with what you have.
So let’s get to it! Assuming you are like most Americans living paycheck to paycheck, with little left over, I will start with the free/already purchased stuff. Then, we will talk about the basic skills needed that you can learn for FREE. For this scenario, we will focus on being prepared for one week for a family of 4.
Water – Everyone needs it! You don’t need to run out and buy cases upon cases of water but you do need to have some safe water stored. The rule of thumb is one gallon of water per day, per person. For one week, you would need 28 gallons stored. That takes up a huge amount of space! What we did to overcome (and not buy a ton of water) this challenge was ask friends who drink soda pop to save their two liter bottles. They can be easier to store in odd places than gallons and we could build it up over time. Before we moved to the new house, we used tap water and dated the bottles. We refilled them out every 6 months, using the water in the garden so nothing is wasted. They were stored in all sorts of places: under the bed, closet, and shelf space as it came available. Didn’t cost us a single penny extra! Tip: Don’t forget water for the pets!
Food – This one may be a stretch for some and not so much for others. We didn’t head out and buy a ton of freeze dried food. Instead, I used my vacuum sealer to seal jars of dried beans, packs of rice, and other dry goods. I put them into a bucket with a lid and called it good to start. I checked the dates on some of our cans of soup and the ones with the longest date out were added to the container. Over the next couple weeks, I would buy a bag of rice to replace what I stored, a bag of beans on sale to increase my stock. You’d be amazed at how much food you really have in raw materials. With just 5 basic ingredients, you can make several filling and tasty foods! Beans and rice are inexpensive for larger bags and are a great place to start. Something filling, something with protein and carbs to keep you going.
Food is one of those things that is too personal to try and make a list that suits everyone. The trick is to take a look at what you already have and determine what you can put up that is a ‘just in case’ stash. Don’t forget to rotate stuff out as it nears expiration and, very important, don’t store food you don’t normally eat! It amazes me how many people will buy something they don’t normally eat because it’s on sale. It’s a waste of time, money, and precious storage space. When you get to the point of buying food for long term storage, be sure what you’re buying fits the criteria that best suits your family.
Shelter/Heat – We all need shelter and heat to survive. If a situation takes out your heat source, what will you do? We wish we could have a wood stove because it would resolve numerous survival needs all at once (heat, hot water, cooking). Since we can’t and are on electric heat (for now), our options are limited for staying warm. If there’s no electricity, there’s no heat and we are in trouble. I went online to search ways to keep things warm and came across some great tips!
Pick a room that you want to keep warm. Avoid any room with vaulted ceilings! Close the doors on all other rooms and put blankets over the ones that lead into/out of the room you’re keeping warm. If possible, put plastic up over the windows. Adding blankets over them during the night as well will keep even more heat in! You would be amazed how much heat a single candle can put off, too. There are all manner of articles out there about making a ‘tea light heater’ but I find it’s much easier to just burn a candle or two and avoid the potential mess and smoke of those methods. A quick Google search will help you find out more if interested.
Hygiene – Hygiene is something that few people think about in a disaster scenario. We are so used to being clean and sanitary that we don’t ever really have to think about or plan for it. Not planning for hygiene beforehand can lead to some disastrous situations. Backed sewer pipes, contaminated water… a little planning can go a very long way to ensuring you don’t get sick.
Solutions include storing some extra water meant for cleaning up, buying baby wipes, and having waterless soap on hand. Other than the water, you would need to buy stuff. Some of the things we did was take our older, ugly looking hand towels and designate them as ’emergency cleaning rags.’ They may not look pretty, but they are still clean and useable. It’s amazing how much better you can feel just from wiping down with a clean cloth!
TIP: A great place to get inexpensive gear is garage sales. Find ones that have camping gear being sold! Sleeping blankets, solar showers, and propane indoor heaters can be gotten for pennies on the dollar
This is where we really get into the nitty gritty. All of the stuff listed above can be taken from you either by man or nature at any time. One thing that cannot be taken is your skills. When we first started our homesteading and preparedness journey, I scoured the internet for articles and videos to at least get some exposure to the skills I would need to survive. Many of the skills is assuming I’m not at home but several apply no matter where you are.
Resource Gathering – To some, this category may seem silly. To those who’ve already traveled this path for awhile know what I mean when I say that there is an art and skill to resource gathering. You need to work on it over time and hone it to a fine art. Resource gathering isn’t gong shopping. Instead, it’s looking at the materials you have on hand to accomplish the challenge you’re facing. It’s knowing that there are edible berries in a place or where you can find building materials cheap/free. It’s foraging, and not just for food.
This skill is something that is hard to teach and for some, almost impossible to learn. Not everyone can look at a tin can and see all the things it could be made in to. You have to be exposed to this type of reasoning and then practice it.
Fire Starting – I can hear some of you now. “Fire starting as a skill?” Oh yes, definitely. It amazes me how few people know how to start a fire with anything other than a lighter or matches. Most have heard of ‘rubbing two sticks together’ but few have heard of a fire bow. There are all manner of alternative fire starting methods out there and it is in your best interest to learn at least two of them. Practice them until you are confident that under less than ideal circumstances, you can still get one started. It could save your life!
Along with fire starting comes the skills for building a fire that burns all night, a fire meant to give off heat to an area, and a cooking fire. There is a big difference between a cooking fire and a fire you want to burn all night long. We used some stuff we had around the house to make our own fire starters, too. They work very well, especially in our wet climate!
Alternative Cooking Methods – Do you know how to cook over a fire? Anyone can roast a hot dog but what about making eggs? Rice? How about soup without scalding it? Take a look at what you have on hand that could be used over a fire. If you don’t have anything, try thrift stores and garage sales for some cast iron. There is simply nothing better for durability and longevity, even after hard use. We prefer the Lodge brand of cast iron on the rare occasion we buy it new. Pictured to the right is when we used the dutch oven to make pizza while camping!
Food Preservation – I learned about food preservation online. I already knew about smoking meat and cheeses, and canning salmon but had almost no experience in doing it myself. So, I went online. I looked up and read anything I could find. Then, I looked up user’s guides for various equipment so I could read about how they work. Those guides also gave me information about temperatures, times, and prep work needed.
Crafting – Hobbies are a wonderful resource to tap into when it comes to survival. For example, we love to go camping and have built up a nice bunch of equipment over the years. Our hobby of camping will definitely help us survive as does fishing, hunting, and plant knowledge. As campers, we know how to build fires for different uses, set up water catch systems with tarps and other materials, and how to avoid predators. Avid hikers tend to know a lot about the plants they hike through. I also love to crochet. Crocheting is a way to make clothing, even out of old scrap cloth. People who love to sew have a very valuable skill set that is little known to the majority of our population. All of these are examples of how hobbies can help you survive. If your hobby involves crafting something (most do!), you have additional power to make something that can be bartered for something else.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER and if you have access to the internet, you have all the knowledge you could ever want at your literal fingertips. That’s all you need to start prepping. Decide what you need and want to learn about and then look it up! Be sure to check several sites and sources – not all sites give solid information and are only trying to sell you something. Looking at multiple sites will give a broader education and help you determine what is good and logical information, and what isn’t on the up and up.
Thoughts? Drop a line below, comment on Facebook, or send me an email at email@example.com!