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Getting the Most from Food and Water During a Disaster

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from RubyMae. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.


I recently read an article about what a woman learned from a weekend of surviving on stored water. Basically she learned to have her kids share their bath water and to store more so she could take longer showers and more baths.

In a disaster we all know water is going to be very precious. Water is also one of the hardest things to store. Now is the time to think about ways to get the most out of every drop. I want to stay clean but if it comes down to it and in a disaster we all know it will I’d rather have more for drinking and less for washing.

I have had many instances of not having access to running water. I live in a mobile home and my piping is PVC pipe. One day my brother accidentally ran over it with the lawnmower. Fortunately I am friends with a plumber and he would fix it for free. Unfortunately I had to wait 3 days. I’m 5 feet 6 inches tall and I can wash and rinse everything using only 2 liters of water. I wasn’t even being careful just too lazy to get an extra 2 two liter bottle.

Squeezing the last drop out of your water during a disaster

Here is what I did. Stand inside a plastic tote. Use a red solo cup etc. Pour water on head slowly and massage into hair, trying not to let any water run-off. If you have long hair, pile it loosely in a bun on top of your head and hold in place with one hand. Pour water slowly to allow your hair time to absorb it. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

If washing a second time to get your hair clean you only need to rinse about half of the soap out. Be careful not to use too much soap because the more soap you use the more water it will take to rinse. Use cup to scoop water from tote to get body wet and wash. You can also just use a wet wash rag. Using this method you don’t have to get your skin wet first. Use water from tote to start rinse. Finish with cup to rinse with clean water. Using this method you can use 2 liters or less of water. Practice now and learn how little water you can get clean with.

Read More: Sponge Bath: Keep Clean Without Running Water

You can brush your teeth with very little water. Put toothpaste on toothbrush. Take a small sip to wet mouth. I have also used mouthwash for this step. Spit out on toothbrush to wet paste. Brush like normal and rinse with a sip of two of water.

Grey water can be used by the next person and followed with clean for a rinse. It can be used to start to clean clothes and finally if possible to flush a toilet.

A local pond might become your new bathing spot.

A local pond might become your new bathing spot.

When washing your hands or dishes be careful to catch water for reuse. Better yet plan on having at least some disposable dishes and baby wipes for cleaning your hands.

After a disaster everything is going to change. Most people are used to showering every day but in the past most people bathed once a week. They did this when there was no air conditioning and many had labor intensive jobs. These next suggestions may seem gross to you but they are worth considering. Even if you think you have plenty of water and a perfect bug out plan. It is highly likely that during a disaster at least once you will have to go a few days without a shower or clean clothes.

Bring out the funk!

Texsport Jumbo Camp Shower, 5 Gal – For those who want to freshen up without access to running water. Good insurance policy.

You might want to get an ideal of how it I going to feel and start getting used to it. Try going a few days without a shower to get used to it. I’m not suggesting no hygiene at all. Go ahead use deodorant. Use a baby wipe to clean up. Just forgo an actual shower. I have managed to get to 10 days before I was told I smelled. It helps that I work from home. For those of you that work with people outside of your family try skipping your Thursday night or Friday morning shower and waiting till Sunday night or Monday morning to shower. If you are used to wearing clean clothes every day try wearing the same outfit for several days.

For personal food storage I generally see the advice to store what you eat and to eat what you store. In theory that sounds good. However, during a disaster everything is going to become harder. I want life to be as easy as possible during this time so I store several things I don’t normally eat.

Some examples are canned tuna, canned ham and canned chicken. I have eaten these in the past and tried all of the brands I store. I don’t eat them regularly because it is cost prohibitive to do so. I store them because in a disaster it is likely to be the only meat available to me and my family

I store instant potatoes even though I don’t like them. I’ll eat them if I have to and I don’t expect to have access to regular potatoes. I have instant gravy to make cooking and eating faster and easier. I have canned beans because it takes so much water to cook beans. Precooked rice pouches will reduce cook time and water usage. For as long as it lasts bagged cereal requires no cooking, no additional water to cook and no water to wash dishes. It also doesn’t weigh much. My local Walmart frequently has Malt o Meal 11 ounce bags for a dollar. Picky eaters should practice expanding the foods they eat.

I also have food I would only eat if I had to. I didn’t buy most of this food and what I did buy was on sale. My local HEB always has meal deals where you get free items if you purchase something. I get even the foods I don’t like and save them. These are the foods that will be out in my visible food storage. That way when people come to loot my house or steal from me they can see and steal those. Hopefully this will satisfy them and they won’t look or look as hard for my hidden food. Some things are best kept private but I will say I have put considerable thought into places and ways I can hide my preps. I am under no illusions that no one will come and take things from me. I actually expect to have things stolen.

My plan is to not cook anything for at least 30 days. I may heat up a can of soup or fix instant potatoes but that’s about it. I don’t want people smelling my food. This will also reduce water usage. Little to no water will be needed to cook. Little to no water will be needed to clean up after eating.

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  • Nonya

    In an “Iraq bucket bath” situation, first sweep the floor; gather the bucket of water and cup. Bending down over the bucket, he first thing I wash is my face. Still bending down, I thoroughly wet my hair that way (recapture all the water dripping off of it). Straighten up and apply smallest amount of shampoo possible. Use minimal soap on armpits and groin, after getting them wet. Now slowly rinse hair with cup, letting this slightly soapy water travel down the body. Try to stand in the bucket (at least 1 foot if both feet won’t fit) to recapture all the water you can. After every 2 cups, help the rinse water to areas that might still be dry, so that every inch of the body is wet. After all skin is wet and hair is rinsed, bend back over the bucket and use that water to rinse armpits then groin. Then wash feet. Last of all is wiping up the floor. Clean self, and clean floor – what’s not to like?

  • need coffee

    This article has made the most sense to me. Thinking about not cooking due to the smell and keeping canned food that takes no water or a heat source.

    • BobW

      Is that sarcasm? Not cooking food is a method to reduce a person/group’s profile, and while not ideal, is effective.

      Also, everything in the can is edible, including the water the greenbeans, corn, tuna are canned in. Other than being somewhat unattractive, vege cans have calories, vitamins, and water, which when things get tight, should never be wasted.

      • need coffee

        No it wasn’t sarcasm. I truly meant it. If one is heating up their beef and noodles dehydrated meal or heck using a BBQ grill, they all throw off smell, smell that carries, smell that others could/would? be drawn to.

  • Solus

    Good article full of good ideas. I also like Nonya’s “Iraq bucket bath”. Leave it to a vet to have seen everything at some point. Great followup.

  • BobW

    I get concerned when I see articles discussing topics like
    daily showers and double washing of hair as a disaster preparation concept.

    This might be fine and dandy when the ‘govt water’ is still on, but for most,
    meeting their daily water needs (not wants) will be far more challenging than
    just turning on a the spigot. 1. Someone has to hump that water from the source
    to the home/camp/etc., and 2. Its just plain wasteful.

    I understand females have different needs than men. Washing
    your hair daily is not one of them. Focus efforts on personal hygiene, not
    beauty treatments. After spending 16 months on the savage frontier, I found
    that other than the mandatory shave, there are really only two ‘needs’ for basic hygiene. Brushing your teeth, and washing the …ahem… southern regions. This applies equally to males and females.

    Male Soldiers in the field went weeks without showers. None of us died from disease. We all stunk the same. When we cleaned, it was baby wipes, or a canteen bath.

    General preparation theory espouses a water consumption rate of one gallon per person per day. That includes cooking, cleaning, drinking, and hygiene. Do the math. If you are wasting a gallon of water just to wash your hair (personal estimate of peoples’ water wasting ways), that doubles water consumption for that person. A family of 4 with one male child and one female child now needs 6 gallons per day. That’s a 50% increase in daily water usage. For that family to survive a month, their water needs go from 120 gallons to 180 gallons. Unless you have JWR level homestead, someone has to hump that water from the source to the usage point.

    How much water storage do you have?

    Personally, I disagree with the generally accepted water needs. Under stressful, hard working conditions, a person should be drinking that gallon of water per day, if not more, just to maintain their exertion level day to day. Much of the US is either hot and dry, or hot and humid during the summer months. People working hard to survive will be sweating. Using that gallon of water to wash sweat-soaked or salt-crusted clothes is a far better usage than washing hair. The clothes will rot apart quickly without proper care. The hair will just not look as alluring.

    Can you really afford to devote an extra gallon of water per day to beauty?

    • Rubymae

      I never said to wash daily. In fact I suggested not washing daily during a disaster. I gave instuuctions for how to wash hair with little water if needed. I know afterba week my head gets itchy and I need to wash my hair. Perhsps ill try the baking soda ideal I read online.
      I didnt think about how salty clothes would get but I did suggest to reuse the water to wash clothes.

      • Huples

        If you can stand it do not wash your hair with anything for two weeks. After this the natural oils keep it clean and soft. Brushing it daily is needed.
        Think how often dogs are bathed. Due to skin issues one of ours has not been bathed for three years. He’s no stinker than his sister.
        In a true messed up situation you need to brush your teeth with stuff other than Crest and know how to do it.
        Winter up north will not really allow body, hair, and clothes washing in any case

      • BobW

        Sorry if I read it differently than you wrote it, Rubymae.

  • Patrick Flynn

    Water is life isn’t it? For all creatures from the tiniest insect to the mighty Elephant. In my household we have installed 2 low water use toilets ( and yes, they work just fine to carry waste products away ) and we instruct the kids to keep their shower time to three minutes. I seldom wash our vehicles and it might sound kind of redneck of me but I kinda like some dirt on my trucks. We also have four raised bed gardens that are watered from three 55 plastic barrels that catch the rain water off the roof. this spring I’m installing automatic drip systems for the garden because my mate hates watering the gardens. that should conserve more precious water.

    We also have access to a creek less than 50 yards away where we can fill containers but we’ll have to take precautions to sanitize the water for safe drinking because of the runoff of fertilizer from surrounding farm fields.

    Over all, we are very fortunate to have plenty of access to water. And BTW, I completely despise and hate our third party water providers so I have been forced ( in good way ) to take water conservation very seriously. The water company raised our rates by 151% a couple of years ago and our class action suit reduced our water rates to a more affordable rate and the owners had RICO charges filed against them. They should have been tarred and feathered and almost were when they arrived to a community water meeting in two limosines. If it hadn’t been for the local cops these thieves bodies would still be swinging from the trees.

    Best,

    Snake Plisken

  • BobW

    I read somewhere that in the old, old days, bath day was once a week or more. One tub, one tub full of water. Everyone got their turn.

    I think I’d prefer a solar shower with each getting three gallons once a week.

  • Drubee

    for we guys…short hair allows “facecloth washing” of the hair/scalp area…and yes baby wipes in the ‘nether regions’ and extends the water saving!