Top 3 SHTF Job Opportunities for Preppers

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There are a lot of articles geared toward preppers that have been written suggesting that in order to survive TEOTWAWKI (The End of The World as We Know It) you should have skills that would be in short supply and more importantly valuable if society is trying to rebuild itself that you could conceivably make a living with. I have heard examples of glass-making, blacksmith, electronics repair, sewing and leather-work to name a few. These are great skills to have, but I wonder how applicable they would be in a grid down society to preppers. I guess more to the point, should you waste your time building and collecting prepper supplies that will enable you to open up your own Blacksmith shop out of your back yard? Are these the best job opportunities for preppers?

Perhaps it helps to give these suggestions context. I assume that the people who are writing these articles are thinking long-term. For these skills to be valuable, we as a society would need to go back to the 1800s. I think that is very possible if some form of EMP device was exploded over our country and all electronic devices were completely destroyed. I don’t think that is necessarily going to be the case though. I don’t doubt an EMP is real and could one day be used, but I don’t see us going all Revolution and no devices work at all in the world. Maybe I am wrong.

Even without an EMP, we could have a massive blackout like they showed on National Geographic. Assuming I am wrong and an event that is so cataclysmic occurs that we are essentially reverted back to Little House on the Prairie days –  are these skills the best to have? Would you be able to make a living in this world as a blacksmith? Could you provide for your family with a lucrative leather goods store? Could you feed your family with beautiful glass you make in your shop at the end of the main street? Maybe, but how long would you have to get by waiting for this to happen?

In my mind, if we do have some catastrophic event that renders society unable to lean on the mechanical and technical inventions for the last 150 years or so, there will be so much more that you will need to worry about. It isn’t like if the grid goes down, you will just need to find a new job or you will be bored all day with nothing to do. Your job will be living! Each day you will be tested and there won’t be any vacation or benefits anymore. Your job will be survival and making sure everyone in your family is surviving too.

Job #1 – Feeding Yourself

Your stored food will eventually run out.

Job opportunity #1 – Your stored food will run out.

OK, the big one hit, whatever that is and you and your family are just fine. You have plenty of food stocked up in your pantry, or at least 6 months’ worth and as you crack open another can of soup you are thankful that you got your prepping supplies in order well before the collapse. The only problem is that your food will run out and you can’t punch up the freeze dried store on the internet anymore. You won’t be able to head on down to the local Piggly Wiggly either. You are going to need to spend some of every day focused on the food that your family needs to live.

But you already have a garden you say? That’s great but how many tomatoes do you think it would take to fill you up? Have you considered how much food your garden is going to need to produce to feed your family as well as extra for canning? Oh, you forgot about the winter months where nothing grows?

I sometimes complain about the work needed to keep a garden weed free and producing, but I am sandwiching my time in the garden between two other jobs and the usual social engagements. If my garden doesn’t produce, I can go to the store. If the grid goes down, I won’t have a traditional job, my job will be tending that garden and hunting for whatever game I can find. I will also be working on tending bees and raising chicken or rabbits. To do this right and by right I mean in a way that can feed your family when the grid goes down, you will be busy.

2 – Collecting Water for Yourself

In a grid down world, you won’t have water coming out of the tap anymore. Those solar panels and the pump, unless you stored them away in a faraday cage will be useless in an EMP event. How will you get water for drinking, preparing food and hygiene? The luckiest of us would have a fresh supply of water right on our property like a fast moving creek. You will still need to get to the creek, collect the water and get it back home. This is easier with a wagon and large buckets, but you might be surprised at how much water you would go through in one day. What if the water source is frozen?

Once you have the water, you will either need to boil it, which means building or tending a fire or filtering it. I prefer the filter method so I purchased a Big Berkey water filter to assist me in this department. I will still need to get the water though. I have rain barrels attached to the gutters on my house, but I would still need to make trips out to collect the water in buckets and bring those in for filtering. Some water I would most likely boil as opposed to filtering. Better to use a fire for shower water and cleaning dishes than reduce the life of my filters on those needs.

3 – Protecting Yourself

The world has gone to hell in a hand basket and you think it will be simple to set out your shingle and have everyone come visit you so you can fashion some metal into various useful things? I don’t see that happening until a lot of people are dead unfortunately. Just look at the events in Ferguson, MO over the last week. You have a tragedy of a young man who was killed and almost immediately shops were looted and burned down. Can you imagine what people will do if the electricity doesn’t work? When their EBT cards are worthless, when the grocery store in town is empty and eventually burned down too? These people don’t have gardens or water or chickens, but you do.

Police won't be a call away

Protecting your family could be the most important Job you have.

I think for a very long time after a SHTF type of event, life isn’t going to be nice. People are going to inflict and have inflicted on them violence of the type we haven’t seen in our lifetimes; most of us anyway. If society devolves that badly, you will need to defend your home, your family and anything you have. If you haven’t already, I would consider purchasing firearms to keep your family safe. It could be your most important job.

Now, there will be those who say I am crazy. The world would never end like that. People will never riot and our country will go on and on forever. OK, that may be true. Worst case scenario, I am wrong and you are right. What does that mean? It means I have food stored up and the means to make more as long as needed. It also means I can collect and filter my own drinking water regardless of what happens to my cities municipal supply. It also means I have a really nice piece of metal that never gets used.

But, if I am right and you are wrong… You are dead. Which odds do you like better?

I don’t want anyone to think I am knocking the abilities of someone who can work with metal or turn leather into useable goods. I wish I could do that and can appreciate their own usefulness when the grid goes down. I just think we have years to go after any collapse for those trades to be marketable. Could you use them to survive? Sure but I don’t think they will be your jobs on main street in Little Home on the Prairie town.

What do you think?


  1. Bobcat-Prepper

    August 14, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Great points, Pat. Feeding yourself and your family, providing safe water, and a safe home and neighborhood will be the Big 3 jobs when SHTF.

    point 1: Preppers need experience NOW growing crops that are calorie-dense; lettuce and tomatoes won’t keep you alive. Whole corn (feed corn), beans, whole wheat kernels, etc are great to store in large quantities: they are cheap, calorie-dense, and can be planted to make a lot more of it! I pulled 3 oz of pinto beans from my pantry on a whim to plant in my garden, 2 beans next to each corn kernel. I harvested this week, and those 3 oz of seed multiplied 34x to produce over 6 pounds of new pinto beans. I calculated that only 24 pounds of beans, if planted and harvested, would produce enough beans to provide ALL of your calorie needs for the next year (not that I would advise eating only beans – your family would kick you out of the house due to noxious emissions).

    Sweet potatoes and winter squash are great nutritious additions, as they will also keep for a long time if properly stored after harvest. I’ll let you know how those turned out after harvest in a couple of months.

    point 2: Berkey filters are great, but there is another, cheaper method that is good to know and prepare for, should your water filter’s capacity runout/malfunction, and to help your neighbors or friends A biofilter can be made with a couple of 5 gallon pails, some PVC pipe, about 100 lbs of sand, and some gravel.


    Keep up the good work!

    • Pat Henry

      August 15, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      Thank you very much Bobcat!

  2. usmarinestanker

    August 15, 2014 at 11:48 am

    This is a great back to basics article.

    What most people don’t even consider, and I put myself in the group that forgets it regularly, is how much work will be involved for day-to-day living. In my real life, I complain about working 8 hour days for an organization just to get some paper money that I end up spending on bills and what society tells my family they need. I yearn to work for myself so that at least I feel like I’m advancing and not just treading water.

    What I have to remember though, is that in a scenario like this where simple supply lines are broken, not even a Mad Max collapse – or even when I am blessed enough to get 40 acres and live off-the-grid on my own personal farm by choice, is that I and anyone else like this will be working 12-16 hour days just go get food for that day. That’s a lot harder than working 8 hours under fluorescent lights and driving to a restaurant or the grocery store. But this is how it is currently in the majority of the world (3rd- and 2nd-world nations). We are very blessed in our lifestyle, but with our luxury has come great ignorance and laziness.


    Pat, you end the article saying you believe it would be years before more specialized skills would be needed for daily living. I think that that sort of time frame has to be qualified. If we’re talking about a normal disaster like power outage / earthquake / hurricane, etc where there’s a local disruption that is restored, then of course the specialized skills would never be needed. And honestly, I don’t think those sorts of skills would be needed in the absence of infrastructure/electrical grid/political collapse. But if some scenario rears its head in which supply chains and/or the means of production become destroyed / interrupted, I envision those skills being needed after about 6 months – a year, tops.

    I believe there would be the initial rioting phase where people begin to loot out of opportunity, then fear/need followed by a flight from urban centers and great loss of life due to starvation, murder, and self defense. But we can’t live forever without food, and if supply chains really are broken after a couple months then there would be such an urban die off that the survivors would be able to scavenge for another couple months worth of food. Eventually, that food will run out and I predict it would probably last about 6 months total – just enough time for those brand new, made-in-china child labor shoes most of us have to begin falling apart.

    By this time, I envision all of the (sub)urban stores will have been looted and destroyed, and I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t venture into the concrete jungle to try to find a pair of shoes or jeans that is probably hoarded by some sort of war lord. Since I wouldn’t be going in, I doubt they’re willing to come out and that means no trading or obtaining things that are needed, which then means we have to make them.

    This is, of course, hinging on a great, quick, and near-total collapse. If things were to move more slowly and generally decline as in the Great Depression, then yes, it could be a couple years, even a decade, before specialized skills would prove useful. Realistically, I think we’re more likely to see long bread lines and general malaise and apathy like Communist Russia than we are to live Beyond the Thunder Dome.

    • Pat Henry

      August 15, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      Thank you usmarinestanker

      Let me clarify what I meant. I was trying to say that in order for anyone to sell services in a form of structured market, it would take years. I do think these skills are already valuable for daily living as you can certainly make goods and products now. I simply meant that I don’t see anyone setting up a business for several years trading in some form of goods for services so that they could acquire wealth from this service. I don’t see the blacksmith shop in town where he works at his shop all day and puts his money from sales in a jar to purchase supplies at the General store.

      I may be completely wrong and I am no expert on the destruction of society, just guessing. I was referring to beyond thunder dome in my example more so than a depression so we are probably thinking along the same lines.


      • usmarinestanker

        August 15, 2014 at 8:35 pm

        That’s a good clarification. I wasn’t reading this with the understanding of using these skills as a profession.

  3. Jack Bower

    September 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    I think we all would agree that both plans (immediate vs long term) have merit. Now, there are plenty of books about gardening and gun defense. But does anyone know any books about black smithing, leather making, glass blowing, etc? You know, stuff that will restart the world if it ever goes to the shitter?

    I would be very interested in adding those to my non-electronic library.

    • Pat Henry

      September 8, 2014 at 8:31 am

      usmarinestanker knows about leather making so he could probably recommend some good resources for that. There was a project on the web that I can’t find right now that was open source. It essentially had catalogs of all the information you describe and much more just for this type of scenario. I’ll try to find that again.

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