A lot of people seem to dismiss people into preparedness or survivalism as a bunch of paranoid kooks, but, if you think about it, doesn't it make sense to be ready for anything? Realistically, it probably isn't going to be Armageddon, but it could be an injury that leaves you or another major bread-earner in the house (or maybe even the sole bread-earner) unable to work. Or you could get laid off at work. Or there could be a natural disaster like a hurricane, tornado, mud slide, or flood, depending on where you live. Money in the bank is great, if you have money and the disaster in question doesn't mess up bank access, but as survivors of Katrina discovered a few years ago, that isn't always the case. You need to have supplies on hand to take care of yourself until help comes...or if help comes.
At the very least, I implore you to keep a couple months' supply of everything you could need, whether it be food, water, medicine, or gerbil food on hand. That is the bare minimum. Really, I like the LDS recommendations of having a year or more of things on hand. That should be long enough to deal with a personal crisis, like an illness or loss of job, in addition to a natural disaster or zombie invasion (since doesn't it seem that zombies always attack at the worst possible time?). I'll admit that I'm not there yet myself. Including my frozen foods, which depending on the type of emergency may not be helpful at all, I probably only have about 3 months supply on hand. I'm working on it though. It can be a challenge, especially when money is super tight, but here are some of the things I am doing to make things stretch to get that supply going:
- Store what you eat and eat what you store. It doesn't make any sense to follow some random list out there of what foods and things to stock up on if they are things that your family won't eat. One of my favorite guides to prepare for emergencies, Making the Best of Basics Family Preparedness Handbook, is one of my favorites because it doesn't say you "must" have x pounds of some food my family won't eat like a lot of the lists I've seen. What it does have is a list of recommendations of a type of food with a caption of "select x pounds assorted from this category", which is a lot nicer for figuring out how much my family needs. When storing anything, make sure you are rotating your supply so it doesn't go bad on you. All this means is put the newest/freshest stuff in the back (and check the actual dates on the package, since sometimes stores don't do this even though they are supposed to, or if you shop at different stores, they may sell things at a different rate), so when you go to grab it, you grab the oldest stuff from the front. Also, you'll want to periodically review what you're storing to make sure they are still things you'll want to be eating for a while, since people's tastes do change.
- Buy extra when you can. If you find a great deal on something you'll use and you have the funds to get it, do it. I emphasis the "something you'll use" part since it doesn't do you any good to get a "great deal" on something you won't. That's not a great deal--that's a waste of money!
- Do it in bits and pieces if you need to. The world isn't going to end today. Well, it might, but you'd be screwed anyway if that happened, so we'll pretend that it isn't going to. You have time to prepare. Don't let yourself be overwhelmed. I find the site Food Storage Made Easy, with its email lists and Facebook posts to be very helpful in doing a bit at a time.
- Have a "bug out bag" ready to go at all times and keep it handy. You know how you hear about people (I hope you just hear about this and haven't had to deal with it personally anyway!) having to be evacuated for a gas leak, toxic train wreck, flash flood, etc. and they have literally seconds to grab what they need and get out of dodge? It's a lot easier to do when everything you need is right ready to do. Might even increase your chances of grabbing some non-essentials that you treasure anyway, since you wouldn't have to worry about the basics.
- Don't have money to stock up on stuff? Stock up on knowledge instead. Yes, learning and collecting would be the ideal, but if you can't afford to buy anything, learn to do things instead. Gardening, cooking, herbal medicines, woodworking, and any number of other things could, in theory, be the difference between life and death at some point, but in the meantime, they can also be fun and save you a ton of money now, so learn what you can. The internet, the library, and (if I may be so bold) my blog are all places to get started learning. Then, take what you've learned about and start doing, since that's when the real learning takes place.