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Getting Started in Prepping

It's time to start prepping.
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There are many routes people take to this word of Prepping. Some have watched Doomsday Preppers on Nat Geo. Others have found the word scouring blogs out there as almost every mainstream media outlet has had some coverage of the phenomenon. Others have been personally touched by tragedy or worry that they could be someday, so they investigate for themselves. No matter what your reason for searching for prepper, everyone has to start somewhere, but in the beginning it can be a little overwhelming. Today I wanted to share some tips for those getting started in prepping that are easy and will increase your odds for survival without breaking the bank.

Now I know that there are those who have more experience than others. The learning curve is not the same for everyone and neither are the concerns, resources or methods of approaching a journey towards preparedness. Some people view prepping as simply what our great grandmothers did. Some will consider the skills, habits and traits of preppers more suited to the term survivalist. It doesn’t matter what you call it. Whether we are talking about prepping or survival, the root issue both labels are trying to address is living. Living or staying alive even when things get bad.

Why should you start prepping?

I have been interviewed a few times and almost without fail, the first question I get is something like “So how did you get into prepping?”. To me that question is still a little odd, but the majority of people out there go through life without realizing just how easily things can turn upside down. The “normal” that you expect every day when you wake up and look our your window could change overnight and this isn’t something out of a fictional disaster movie; it happens to many people every day.

What disasters am I talking about? You can look at any year and pick dozens of situations where people needed assistance or were affected by earthquakes, tropical storms, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes. In 2011 alone there were 99 major disaster declarations and that doesn’t count things like riots and the turmoil that we see in other countries that could be visiting our shores with the right circumstances. Life can be messy and many people have decided after looking at recent history, that it makes sense to start preparing.

A garden is a great extension of your long-term prepping plan, but don't expect that to feed you in a crisis unless it is well established ahead of time.

A garden is a great extension of your long-term prepping plan, but don’t expect that to feed you in a crisis unless it is well established ahead of time.

Each person likely has their own idea of what they are prepping for. Just like the willing victims interviewed on Doomsday Preppers, I think most of us have something we are worried about more so than anything else, but the great thing about prepping is that preparing for one disaster can also help you with almost any other disaster in large measure. We all need the same basic things to live so preparedness supplies aren’t a waste if your expected tragedy never occurs. Actually, I hope nothing ever happens and I personally get to look back many, many years from now and say I was wrong. I am betting I am not though. Time will tell.

Will Prepping cost you a fortune?

One aspect of prepping is the cost and this is usually because there is an almost immediate focus on prepping supplies you will need in any particular disaster. When I was getting started in prepping, I first conducted a lot of research but in the back of my mind I kept a running list of all of the things I felt I needed. It is the same for most preppers. When you learn about all of the items to consider in a disaster or a collapse, you realize – maybe for the first time, that you could be on your own. The absence of police departments, fire and rescue, electric companies, grocery stores and super Walmart’s leave a big hole in the acquirement portion of our lives. Unless you plan on living a very sparse existence, most of us feel like we should stock up on supplies we consider vital to survival before they are gone for good do to shortage or inability to get to those same supplies.

Unless you already are living on a farm growing all of your own food, what will you do if the grocery stores are out? What will you do for electricity if something happens to the electric grid? What will you do if the police have all walked off the job and a group of thugs is milling around your yard?

I think it is realistic to say that purchasing some prepping supplies will cost you money. Could you make all of these your own? No, you can’t and anyone who tells you that all they need is a sharp knife won’t be alive for very long. Yes, I know Bear Grylls and Les Stroud and a whole bunch of other guys do this every week on reality TV, but listen to me. That isn’t you on the screen and it isn’t reality at all to expect to live in the wild on scavenged grubs, fish or the occasional victim of your snares for 99.99% of us.

Emergency water storage could be found in the tap if you act quickly after a crisis. The WaterBob (pictured) allows you to store 100 gallons in the tub. You can use it for drinking or hygiene after the tap runs dry.

Emergency water storage could be found in the tap if you act quickly after a crisis. The WaterBob (pictured) allows you to store 100 gallons in the tub. You can use it for drinking or hygiene after the tap runs dry.

Yes, we did come from sturdier stock back in the days and some people still possess many of those skills today. Pioneers wandered around and made a life for themselves without all of the conveniences of modern life. We can relearn those skills and we can put aspects of that life into practice, but unless you are independently wealthy, don’t need to work a job or take care of kids to pay that mortgage on your home, the time you have is limited. I recommend a short-term and a long term approach to prepping that anyone can follow.

What are simple steps you can take right now to increase your odds of survival?

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that preppers have a higher likelihood of facing some situation in their lives that temporarily renders them at the mercy of their surroundings. I will take things like regional weather events, economic issues, employment shortages first. Getting stuck in the wilderness with your arm under a boulder is not what we are prepping for. Could that happen? Sure but that is a different survival experience that I think is related but not directly the subject of prepping.

As I said above, everyone needs the same things in order to live. You need water, food, shelter and security. These are constants that don’t change regardless of the crisis or disaster you are living in. Your prepping should first and foremost address your ability to meet those needs for yourself and your family. How much food and water do you need? What shelter considerations would you have and what possible security risks could you face? These are questions that are worthy of their own post but there are some guidelines I believe will work for most everyone in most situations.

Food

Food is one of the most important prepping items and it should be the easiest to acquire. You don’t need to plan for a year’s worth of food right off the bat. Start smaller and begin with an extra week if you don’t have anything. Work your way up after that. Some great food staples that will store for a long time in cool, dry conditions and are extremely economical when you look at it are the following:

  • Rice –You can buy smaller bags at stores like Walmart or go to Sam’s and get the 50lb bags for real cost savings. Buy 2 50lb bags of rice and you will spend about $30. Seriously! Each bag has hundreds of servings.
  • Beans – What goes good with rice? Beans and you can purchase these at the same time. A ten pound bag of pinto beans is about $7. Buy 3 bags and now you have 100 pounds of rice and 30 pounds of beans for less than $50. You can feed a family of 4 for a month with that. Will everyone hate you when it’s over? Probably not if they aren’t starving. You might need to crack a window though…
  • Seasonings – But some seasonings will make those beans and rice go down much better so stop and get salt, pepper, maybe bouillon cubes or hot sauce to spice things up. All of this should be less than $100.

7 gallons of water in an easy to stack container. Make sure you have at least one of these for each person in your house.

Water

Water can be shut off. Water pipes can freeze so it is important to keep a supply of water in your home. The good news is you can fill up a lot of water jugs very cheaply from your faucet. I like the 7 gallon water containers because they hold a lot, stack easily and are just about the max anyone will want to lug around for very long. Get at least 1 of these for each person in your home and you will have a weeks’ worth of water for everyone. The more you have the better off you are.

Shelter

Usually we are talking about staying out of the elements. There isn’t much you can do for heat unless you have electricity and if you have that… Cold weather will kill people more usually so simply planning for colder weather should be part of your preps. Do you have extra warm blankets, or sleeping bags, hats, gloves and scarfs? Shelter should be one thing that most of us don’t have to worry about as long as we have a place to go.

Security

Each person has different priorities, beliefs and values when it comes to security. For me, I have chosen firearms because they make the most sense to me. If you are just getting started prepping and are a legal adult with not much money to spare, I might recommend a shotgun or a pistol as your first self-defense weapon. Shotguns have their advantages – you don’t generally need a permit to purchase one and they are multi-use weapons. You can use them for security and hunting game. Pistols are concealable and most semi-automatics carry more ammo than a shotgun. The choice is up to you. A very decent shotgun can be purchased new for ~$200. Respectable handguns are about double that, but you can find models for much cheaper if you shop around. Make sure you are competently trained in whatever weapon you chose first and get a supply of ammo. I recommend BulkAmmo.com for their good prices and amazingly fast shipping. You can get 25 rounds of 12 gauge buckshot for $8. Pistol ammo is roughly $26 for a box of 50 hollow points.

So the total is roughly $500 to get you enough food, water and a security option to survive for at least a week and possibly more. Are there more things to consider? Yes of course and we have a good selection of articles I think that cover most of the big ticket items. For additional reading if you are just getting started prepping, I might recommend the following:

Good luck and remember that you can always ask any question in the comments of this or any article. The Prepper Journal has a diverse, intelligent and experienced audience who has always shown they are happy to provide their own advice and experience on any issue you are facing.

What are you prepping for?

If you liked this article, please rate it.

  • Bolofia

    Pat,
    Great article and, hopefully, a motivation for people to start thinking and prepping. I suspect that the greatest fear factor to getting started is cost. People tend to visualize a mountain of food and exotic gear, tally the cost in their heads, and conclude that they can’t afford it. In reality, Prepping is a thoughtful, methodical (sometimes painfully slow) process, but it always begins with a simple list. Are you on a budget? Who isn’t! There are an incredible number of things that can be acquired on the cheap (salt, bar soap, the dry foods that you already listed). No one has ever said that you have to acquire everything you will ever need in one weekend, and I don’t know anyone who ever took that approach. Just work the list.

    • Thank you very much Bolo!

      I think you are right about cost. If I didn’t start until I had enough money to get everything on my “list” I would still be saving. The difficult piece for me to put into words is prioritization. At some level I thought I had enough food and needed to focus on some other area of prepping. It certainly didn’t all get done at once, actually it continues to this day.

      I got a gift card for Father’s Day so I picked up that Rush24 bag. Now, I get to pack it full of gear and reevaluate what I have versus what I think I need. You aren’t ever done really.

      Pat

  • EgbertThrockmorton1

    Hit a home run again Pat. Well done.
    We “got started” in prepping, when we realized as young marrieds, that we were at the “fiscal mercy” of our employers, the economy and governmental edicts. I looked at my (then young) family and knew I couldn’t have them at the mercy of faceless heartless bureaurats, and others, they ARE my responsibility.
    We decided early on, it made no financial sense at all, to “store” what we do not normally eat. So, my wife, made up a list of what we normally ate over a two week period, delineating the amounts used, then multiplied those amounts by two weeks.(26X2=52 weeks) Presto! The amount of food stuffs and other supplies we need to have a years supply on hand for our family. Now, we rotate all amounts needed to replenish the supplies and using coupons and sales we spend very little in actual out-of-pocket costs to “re-supply”. Yeah, it IS that simple and easy.
    We’ve done this for the last 30 plus years and have been GLAD we’ve had those supplies on hand. We planned for our PERSONAL emergencies more than natural disasters, civil unrest, because in reality, those personal emergencies are far more likely to occur to each of us at some point in our lives. Yeah, they DO happen to good people, too.
    We have now supplemented our normal stocks with freeze-dried stocks and of course our own canned goods as well, so it’s a good feeling to know you can weather the “Storms of Life” if needed, or, to be a blessing in someone else’s life, if prompted.
    We, are the Cavalry coming to our own rescue, there is no one(or entity) else.(my personal mantra)

    • Thank you so much for the compliments Egbert!

      Kudos to you and your wife for the discipline that takes to essentially change your way of looking at things, develop a plan and above all, for sticking to it for so long. You are the Calvary for your family.

      Pat

  • Elizabeth

    Hey Pat. You hit this one on the nose. I look at the world around me – disaster can be a microcosm (for me and mine only because of a local or personal event) or a macrocosm (look a Greece & the risk of economic contagion, Russia’s aggression, China’s tech-war ‘conversation’ (read: euphemism) with the US, the Middle East’s, uh, ‘crusade’ (read: euphemism). Think about climate change no matter where you stand on the political spectrum. Think North Korea. …And think about even our own elected people and our overly trained and oh so sweet, warm and cuddly corporate leaders who make good choices for them but not so much for individuals and who are clearly devotees to the Top Ten lists of leadership advice on LinkedIn (Kids: We all get the ‘free’ market economy – are we actually serious with this out of the box ‘leadership’ thinking!? And we have semi mandatory training for this? Serious?…what an insult. And yes, I will continue to nod and appear enthusiastic at seminars for the training where the most blatantly self-evident concepts are taught like we’re emotionally stunted idiots. so yeah. ‘Nuff said.)

    People who think for themselves need to be prepared to be on their own with no help coming if something happens. Because it’s not a stretch to think that it could.

    • Thanks Elizabeth and good to hear from you again!

      You nicely echo what Egbert said and I guess at the crux of it all, my motivation for prepping isn’t the disaster because I never quite know what that will be. It is who I will have to depend on to get me out of that disaster alive.

      Pat

  • Sideliner1950

    “Nailed it” again, Pat…another great and valuable article, especially for newcomers, but also very good as a review for everyone. I hope newcomers take time to avail themselves of the wealth of great information and advice contained here and in your Prepper Journal archives.

    As much as anything, earthquakes and wildfires give rise to our own concerns about the possibility of being displaced from our home. Our experiences with local wildfires has been my greatest motivator to become better prepared.

    Earthquakes are virtually unpredictable; but with the arrival of summer, right on schedule, we are once again being harshly reminded of our vulnerability to the effects of fire…this past weekend, two wildfires erupted locally, one aerially suppressed relatively quickly and extinguished by ground crews (big cheers!), but the other now having consumed about 17,000 acres of forested land with 0% containment. The smoke from both has affected us. It’s going to be a long, tough fire season, especially out here in the drought-stricken southwest and western US.

    I think Bolo has it exactly right…prepping can be a painfully slow process, but that’s not a bad thing. IMHO we would all be well-advised to be gentle with ourselves along the way, and not be consumed or overwhelmed by the myriad SHTF scenarios we consider. Only now — some 18 months into our own journey of preparedness — have we begun to sense (and, frankly, enjoy) what I call a “modicum of comfort” in at least one troublesome phase of preparedness — that of being well-enough equipped, fit enough, and knowledgeable enough to think we could survive a short-term (72-hour) bug-out scenario.

    In preparing for such indeterminate events, I have assembled “Every-Day-Carry” (EDC), “Get-Home-Bag” (GHB), and “Bug-Out-Bag” (BOB, also known as 72-hour bag) rigs for family members (and our dog…mustn’t forget our pets!) Even now these bags are probably not perfect and might be somewhat lacking if/ when the SHTF; but we’re far better off now than we were 18 months ago. I’d like to suggest that your new readers consider and rank their own vulnerabilities and perhaps begin their own journeys of preparedness by assembling appropriate bags for themselves and their family members.

    I think I echo your sentiments, Pat, in saying that “bugging in” is a preferable option for ourselves than “bugging out” (while bearing in mind that we may not get to choose.) The task of working toward obtaining and assembling the supplies you suggest to sustain ourselves in our own home during a short-to medium length grid-down “bug-in” scenario has been somewhat easier for me than the tasks of assembling a Get-Home-Bag (GHB) or a Bug-Out-Bag (BOB), largely because there are far fewer space and weight limitations to factor in.

    Allocating space and determining sufficient and proper storage methods in one’s home is a factor for virtually everyone. Having enough water stored is one of my personal big concerns. The “Water Bob” shown above is a relatively inexpensive and versatile water storage solution, and we obtained one for ourselves. The Water Bob does have obvious limitations: it would be most useful to us if given sufficient warning and time to deploy it when a water shortage was imminent. Also, I would caution people to keep in mind that the actual number of gallons of water the “100 Gallon Capacity Water Bob” can store will be limited by the volume of the tub or container in which it is deployed…the “100 Gallon Capacity Water Bob” will only be able to contain about half that volume (or less) when deployed in a standard bathtub. The larger the tub, of course, the greater the useful capacity of the Water Bob, up to that nominal 100-gallon figure.

    Finally, I would also caution new preppers about the psychological trap that lurks as we exercise our minds about all the “what ifs”…remember that the SHTF scenarios for which we try to prepare are not yet upon us and they may never be upon us. It is both wise and healthy to be aware of them; but it is neither wise nor healthy to get dragged down by them in your own mind and heart. Life is good…continue to live in the real world, not in the “doom and gloom” world we must try to imagine as we proceed along our journey of preparedness.

    Keep up the great work, Pat, and as always, thanks for all you do for so many.

    I solicit and welcome comments, criticism, and corrections regarding my comments.

    • Thank you Sideliner for the excellent points you bring up and the compliments.

      That is an important piece of being a prepper you bring up at least in my mind. The media wants to paint anyone who is involved in this lifestyle as being paranoid. If you are so consumed with disaster that you can’t think straight or enjoy life that might very well be the case. Most of the preppers I talk to are not anything like the stereotype. If nothing else, they are more at peace because they are thinking about things ahead of time, making plans and doing what it takes to survive. You remove some of the element of “Oh Crap” when you have rehearsed in your head even these scenarios and have devised mental paths to safety.

      Pat

      • Bolofia

        Isn’t it odd that the same media doesn’t criticize anyone who saves and prepares for retirement…?

  • fortunes4

    Love it. I recently did a lunch-time talk at my workplace complete with power point and all. I am so excited how closely what I created follows this….guess it means I am on the right track. Thanks for all your good information.

    • Thank you for the comments and it’s great to see you are taking this into your workplace. How was it received? Did you set this up or were you asked to present?

      • fortunes4

        I have actually presented twice now. I was asked to do a prepping talk by a coworker and had about 12 people stay during lunch to hear it. The finance director of our organization was so taken aback by how unprepared she was that we talked a bit more. She then asked me to present at our full department meeting on get home bags from the office. It has been received extremely well. Thanks for always having great information.