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


  1. Biggest prepper suggestion: know how to use what you store! I don't know how many people talk about ordering 100 lbs of wheat berries or 300 lbs of rice, but I find myself wondering - do you have any idea what to DO with those foods?

    Ideally, what goes into emergency food storage should be rotated, both for freshness (eat the oldest first, replenish from the rear) and because you have to know what you're doing BEFORE the emergency happens! Having a thousand pounds of beans stocked is great... unless you've no clue as to how they're cooked.

    If you know how to cook emergency foods, then I suggest rather than storing a ton of water (3 gallons per person per day is good), store a bit of bleach. It takes very little bleach to purify water. I live down the road from a beach. While I wouldn't drink the water right out of the lake, I have no issues with purifying it and THEN drinking it. Go onto the web and find out how to make water potable.

    Keep in mind the rule of 3s. You can live 3 minutes without air (have a first aid kit and know how to use it). You can live 3 hours without shelter (know how to make shelter out of what you have around, and have a "to go" bag that has some kind of shelter in it, even if only one of those little emergency solar blankets). You can go 3 days without water, so k now how to purify water. You can go 3 weeks without food. Know how to hunt or trap, and what to do with it once you've got it, or alternatively know how to find roots and such in the dead of winter (or whatever the worst weather is in your area of the world). You can go 3 months without hope, so have things on hand that will keep your hope up. We have books (both practical and enjoyment based) that are essentials to a "bug out" situation, and entire bookcases for "hunker down" situations. Books give you information, entertainment, and provide that hope.

    Yes, I am doing the prepper thing, though not to the level that most of those who call themselves preppers are. I see trends. I watched our corn and rice land be destroyed in 2011. I forecasted (correctly) that rice and corn products would become more expensive. We have tons of rice on hand that we purchased on sale before it got expensive. We have corn flour in the cupboard. Just... be ready. :)

  2. One thing I would add is a first-aid kit. There are instructions all over the net on how to make your own, or if someone had the money, they could buy a pre-made one. It's a good place to keep those extra medications, and after my experience this morning (damaging my back), I would strongly suggest keeping a couple of prescription painkillers as well. Having everything prepped and ready to go is useless if you are too injured to move around.

    Related to that - medical help books, left on a shelf where they can be reached from the floor (in case of a person being unable to stand), but high enough where they can be reached by a person standing.

  3. I would suggest a couple more things: $1 bills, people evacuating Houston when Rita came through wished they had some when they found themselves stranded, the restaurants had no more food, & they came upon a vending machine. A can of gasoline in case of evacuation & the stations on your way out of town are bone dry. Always keep your gas tank half full. It doesn't cost any more to fill the top half of the tank than it does the bottom half! All your important papers: deeds, wills, birth certificates, shot records, etc. in one place - preferably a fire proof safe attached to your slab (so it can't grow legs in case of a robbery), but where you can quickly access them if you have to evacuate. Have a cloth or canvas bag posted there to load everything in when it's time to go to save time hunting one down. You may also want to get all your pictures on media in there, including negatives. If you have really old antique pics, take pictures of the pictures. Pictures of everything is a good thing to have in there for insurance claims. All the above poster's suggestions are very good. I have a 14 day supply of water, they say if you can't find potable water, or water to be made potable in 2 weeks, well, you're out of luck anyway! Bleach, or bleach tablets are good to have if you need to do clean-up after you return home, those big cheap rolls of heavy duty plastic - I think it's called visquene? (spelling?) are great if you find a hole in your roof upon return. I've bought them at Wally World for $3 a huge roll, but that was a few years back. I have 72 hour kits for each member of the family in backpacks. Attached to each of these I made up ID cards with a current pic of each member of the family, (on every card) all cell numbers, phone & address of out-of-town family we were to call if separated & we couldn't contact each other. Sometimes you can get calls out of town, but not through in the same town! I laminated these, as our #1 concern for our area would be an abundance of moisture! Remember Hurricane Katrina? People were searching for family but had no pictures to post of their family. If you have pets, don't forget to put a cheap leash & some pet food in your 72 hours kits.

  4. My advice would be to take a breath! You don't need to do it all in one day. I've broken my prepping down to four categories: food, hygiene & medical, knowledge, & seasonal. One weekend per month I focus on just one category. The first weekend of the month I take stock of the pantry and shop to stock up on food. The next weekend I evaluate and shop for my hygiene & medical supplies. The third weekend I take myself out for coffee and read up on a new skill I want to learn or I attned a class that teaches it. The fourth weekend I'm searching for a new plant/herb to add to the garden in summer, tend to auto maintenance, stock up on fuel in winter, etc.

    It's so easy to get overwhelmed & discouraged if you try and do everything all at once.

    Beginners might also want to keep a journal of their journey or of future plans. I keep a running list of herbs I want to try, new skills I want to explore, classes I'd like to take and books I'd like to read to help me on my journey.

  5. You guys are good thanks for the info. Keep it up : )

  6. The old Fox Fire series. It's book's on how-to. Written based on learning from the Appalation (I know people, Ky, WV, Virgina, NC, that whole area. And written some years back. We were collecting them in the late '70's early '80s. Folks Always think the world is ending, the gov's horrible, zombies are coming & the current prez is a __ fill in the blank with what ever a commie is now. But that knowledge is so valuable! For so many more reasons. How to butcher a pig. How to raise it. How to make a quilt, birth a child, so on & so forth.

  7. One of the biggest things that you can do is stock up on KNOWLEDGE. Much like Allyson mentioned earlier, the most important thing to survival is knowing how to analyze a situation and how to use what you have.

    You can all too easily buy the premade 1year food supply kits or the 3 acre kit of heirloom seeds, but if you and your family won't eat the stuff, or don't know how to garden (and there is one heck of a learning curve with that!), then none of it will matter.

    You also have to decide what it is that you're preparing for. Here in Florida, hurricanes are the most obvious, but a lot of people don't take into account that you might be laid off from work, you might get into a car accident that leaves you home sick for a week, those small emergencies that really impact your daily life. For example, right now, if you were homebound for even 72 hours, would you and your family have enough food in the house? Prepping is not something that you can do overnight, and it's completely ok to take baby steps! There is also a ton of information on the internet and your local community, and it can be overwhelming, so start with your basics, food and water, and go from there.