Saturday, March 3, 2012

Prepping--Where to start? (and, of course, how to do it cheaply)

I came across a post on CafeMom today that I wouldn't have necessarily expected to find there: someone said they were a "doomsday prepper" and invited readers to "ask anything".  I skimmed a few of the 480 replies and saw a couple good questions that I wasn't sure were being adequately or properly (in my opinion) answered, so I thought I'd tackle them here, since they were good questions that I've heard a lot too:

1) If you were starting from scratch and only had $20 a month to spend, what would you start with?


2) How do you start prepping?

To me, these are extremely related questions (and the original poster on CafeMom that told the $20 person to get stuff from the food bank to build up their preps was wrong in my opinion, on several levels!), so I thought I'd answer them here.

In this day and age, knowledge is usually free.  Between the internet and the library, there isn't much you can't learn without even spending a dime.  Food is one of the most basic survival needs, so I personally started my mental preps with that.  Learn to garden if you don't already know how.  Learn to preserve your harvest, whether it be through canning, fermenting, or dehydrating, or all of the above.  Learn to cook from scratch.  Beyond that, you can learn as much as you like and whatever you think is useful.  If you want to have books on hand for after TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it), many great books can be found by trading on or bought used for little more than a song on Amazon.

Once you have a little gardening know-how, seeds are a great investment.  If you are accumulating seeds for prepping purposes, you'll want to make sure to get heirloom varieties, so you can save the seeds from year to year and never have to buy seeds again, even if the excrement never does hit the rotating blades.  Those hypothetical $20 will buy a lot of seeds!

I was hoping to find something like "The Complete Idiot's Guide to
Survival" or "Preparedness for Dummies" to use as a graphic,
but apparently neither of those books exist.  This one looks like a decent
starting place, although I don't think I've read it
With gas about $4 or more through much of the country (plus the whole Mayan end of the world thing, but I'm not going to get into that.  The economic turmoil in Greece is much more cause for concern as I see it anyway), I see an ever increasing number of people worried about an eminent collapse, in which case knowledge and seeds ain't going to cut it.  So ya know what will cut it right now?  Coupons.  Okay, so you cut the coupons, not the other way around, but you know what I mean.  Anyhoo, you can use semi-extreme couponing to buy shelf stable products you'd use anyway to start building a stockpile.  For prepping purposes, it is best to get the shelf stable stuff, because, depending on the scenario (hurricane season, anyone?  Any sort of extreme weather that knocks out the power for any length of time?), things that have to be refrigerated, frozen, or nuked to cook may not be the best investment.  You only want to get stuff your family will actually eat (hence the "products you'd use anyway" part of the equation) or you're just throwing your money away, which kind of defeats the purpose.  I love because she combines sales with coupons for just about every store so you can see how much you'd save, plus you can get all the printable coupons right from her site (that's actually how she makes her money from doing that, in case you are wondering, since I've been asked that before as well).  I've been saving about 50% off my grocery bill, just buying stuff our family will actually use, not the super junky stuff (I saved about 75% off some fresh produce and cheese the other day!), since I started using her site!

The other major things to take care of when starting to prep are water (have a minimum of 1 gallon per person for a minimum of 3 days, with a plan for how to obtain potable water after that...or just stockpile more water, in food grade containers) and, if you need 'em, medications you are dependent on.  As you progress in your preparations, you will also want to consider things like heat, energy (to cook your food, if nothing else, but if you get hardcore, solar or wind will keep your washing machine running long after the electric grid goes down), protection, and other things, but since the questions were on how to get started, those are probably further on down the road.

If you've been prepping for a while, what advice do you have for someone just getting started?  If you are just getting started yourself, what questions do you have, either that can be answered here or in a future post (posts?)?
This and lots of other great posts from other blogs can be found on Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #17