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Start Prepping Without Feeling Overwhelmed

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Kena K. 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.


Everyone has different reasons for prepping. For us it was the combination of hearing about the increasing devastation of more natural disasters in the U.S. and abroad, and seeing how many people lost their jobs and homes during the economic recession. Initially, our thought was just to have some extra food in the cupboards in case I lost my job. We started by emptying out the closet in our extra bedroom, which allowed us to get rid of some of the extra “stuff ”we all seem to accumulate. Next, we purchased a few shelving units on sale, and secured them to the wall inside the closet. From there, we researched food items with longer storage lives like beans, instant rice, oatmeal, pasta, instant potatoes, honey and sugar and then started buying a little extra food each time we went to the store, focusing on sales to keep things cheaper. Once home with the the food, I wrote the “use by” date on the labels of the food before storing them in the closet so the items that expire soonest would be used first and those with the later expiration dates would be placed behind those to be used later.

As time went on our food storage grew and became more diverse. We began to compare our closet to a savings vault and the more food we put in it, the richer we felt. Coincidentally, the more we collected, the more interested we got in the whole prepping concept. I organized the food according to categories like beans, rice, oatmeal, canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned fish and meats, boxed meals, spices, baking items, drink mixes (coffee, tea, hot cocoa, hot cider, instant milk, Gatorade, Tang, Kool-Aid, etc.) and so on. We not only thought of ourselves, we also planned for the possibility that other members of our family might have to leave their homes, so we downsized more of our “junk” to create more space, and collected more food.

The biggest challenge for me was storing water. I didn’t want anything to be so heavy it would fall on our heads, collapse the shelves, or worse to leak and ruin our food, so I boiled water and stored it in glass quart jars that I had saved from empty juice containers, and then dated the jars and placed them upright, underneath the shelving units where lucky for me, they fit perfectly. I also purchased and stored some plastic drinking water bottles. Since the minimum recommendation is to save one gallon of water per day, per person and pets, and since water is life, I found it difficult to determine how many days we should save for and where to find enough space to store it all. Eventually, I got creative and found other places throughout the house to store more water and we kept empty 5 gallon water containers with our camping gear so we could use them to gather more water, as needed.

Prepping isn’t a new idea – What is new is the idea that you don’t need to prepare.

At some point, we began to expand our storage items from just food into thoughts of our pets needs, first aid, extra indoor and outdoor clothes and shoes, towels and blankets, soap, shampoo, lotion, toothbrushes, toothpaste and the like, again purchasing items on sale. We started going to garage sales to look for things like oil lamps and camping items. We made Bug Out Bags for ourselves should we need to evacuate at a moments notice and I even stored a few emergency items in my purse and in our vehicles. We have a camp trailer so we also got it ready with extra sleeping bags, food, hygiene items, books, puzzles, cards, and toys for the grandkids. It became a game to us, always thinking of things we might need and how to purchase them without spending tons of money. We bought things like tools, personal protection items, backpacks, cooking and camping gear for each other for our birthday and Christmas presents. During the winter when the weather was too bad to go outside, I used my time to copy our important papers, put family pictures in a small photo album, and wrote down their addresses, phone numbers and birthdays and anything else of importance I could think of (scars, blood types, etc). We stored some state and Forest Service maps in the glove box and our backpacks in case we had to travel or use the back roads. I also started collecting recipes for ways to use the freeze-dried foods we’d purchased.

In the spring we expanded our garden area and mostly planted food that we could freeze, dry or can. We felt really good growing our own food because we kept it organic and knew it would taste so much better in the winter than grocery canned foods. We read articles on sprouting and bought seeds so we could try it. Since we owned an acre of land outside the city limits we figured we should utilize our property to help us survive, so instead of a yard full of grass and ornamental trees, we opted for edible landscaping by planting a few fruit trees, berry plants, rhubarb and herbs. We even raised our own chickens for eggs and meat, and had rabbits and turkeys for awhile.

Keep in mind that none of this happened over night by any means. It was something that we started that grew over time. It grew because we saw the importance of it, turned it into a game and then had fun doing it.

What could possibly go wrong?

As our adult children came to visit they began to notice all the food we were collecting and they laughed saying if the Cascadia Fault line acted up, they would just bring their friends and come to our house since we were already so stocked up. I had read an article about someone who opened his property to a few friends who ended up bringing other friend after the Katrina hurricane in 2005 but no one brought anything to contribute towards the cause and soon the years worth of food that he had saved for himself was gone because he had to share it with everyone else. Remembering this, I told the kids that they were more than welcome to come and to think about what they could bring to contribute (food, bedding, towels, etc), and that we had indeed planned for them to stay with us if need be, but then I had to let them know that we did not have enough for their friends, so they would have to prepare for themselves or plan on going someplace else. I felt like I was being a bit mean, but when the SHTF, we all have to decide who can enter our domain and who can’t…and what we are willing to do in order to back that up.

Major cities affected by a disturbance in this subduction zone include Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia; Seattle, Washington; and Portland, Oregon.

That year for Christmas, I gave the kids a mini survival bag for the glove box of their cars that included things like a metal cup with a bit of food, a pocket knife, flashlight, fire starter, and hand warmers and a tiny address book that I wrote our address and phone number in, thinking that in an emergency they may not have cell service so it would be helpful to have important numbers written down with the hope they might be able to use a land line. I told them it was just a starter kit, and encouraged them to add to it.

After some time, I noticed it seems the kids have been paying attention. They have started to collect extra food in case the power goes out or they get sick and can’t go to work or get to the store. My 80 year old mother recently had to rely on the water and food she had stored for just such an occasion when she was unable to leave home due to a heavy snow storm. Fortunately she didn’t lose power, but if she had, she would have been OK because she had candles, a flashlight and an indoor propane heater on hand that we had given her. She had extra blankets and winter clothes too, all things we had given her or that she had gotten for herself. It was a big relief to know she was prepared as we do not live in the same town and are in fact divided by a mountain pass that may have been impossible for us to go over during the storm. Fortunately, she also has a kind neighbor who helped keep her walkway shoveled and some folks from her church who stopped by to check on her. I would prefer that we lived closer so we could help her more, but for now at least, that is not the case.

Whatever your reason, I hope this article inspires you to begin your prepping adventure. Keep it simple, make a game of it, and don’t spend a ton of money upfront if you don’t have it. Second-hand stores, Dollar stores, garage and estate sales, all have great deals. Online stores and military supply stores are great places to look for backpacks, camping supplies, military clothing and a whole host of other items without paying an arm and a leg for it like you might at a specialty-type store. There are numerous prepping articles full of great advice and helpful lists of whatever you might be interested in, like what to put in your first aid kit or your bug-out bag for example. There are also plenty of prepper-type stores online to buy freeze-dried and dehydrated food if you choose to go that way, and they tend to have different items on sale every month, which is how I am building up our freeze-dried and dehydrated items. You can even find a limited supply at some stores like Walmart. So, there are lots of options, and the more you get into it, the more you will want to do. Perhaps you can get others to join you – encourage your family, friends and neighbors to have extra supplies on hand “just-in-case” explaining you never know when you might get sick or when the power will go out. Let them know they don’t want to be the one stuck without gas, food or water. They wouldn’t want the power to go out and be sitting in the dark without some sort of light, heat, or a way to cook and clean. Invite your friends to go to a garage sale with you as a fun way to get started.

There is still so much I want learn like emergency first aid, tying knots, identifying edible mushrooms and wild foods. Reading books and watching survival-type shows is a fun way to be introduced to different ways to build shelter, make fires, use weapons and just live off the land, but of course nothing prepares you for this type of survival like taking a class and practicing your skills and I look forward to it all. I hope you do, too.

  • Carolyn Overcash

    Wow, you should teach a class! Me, I usually have only a month’s supply of food in the house at any one time for 2 people. Recently we moved the fridge back to it’s blueprint spot and I had to find places for the basic large item stuff on top. I went through the regular cabinets and removed stuff past its prime or that I no longer eat or cook. Learned a lesson about frozen things one summer when the power was out a week. (Fortunately we still had access to fresh water.) Having canned items or food items where no cooking is necessary or the addition of water is not necessary is a good idea also. Don’t forget a stationary as well as a portable nonelectric can opener. My stationary one is at the sink and my portable one is with my knives and cutting board. We had a 2 week spell years ago where the power was out for 2 weeks in the dead of winter and temps at or below 0 degrees F. Roads didn’t get plowed and you couldn’t get out. We were fine. Then there’s always the possibility one of the income earners in the home might get sick and be unable to work: a stash of food, medications and supplies could help bridge the gap in income.

    • Kena K

      Thank you Carolyn! Sounds like you and I share the same thought process. It’s comforting to know you will be ok in the event of an emergency and that you are pursuing more growth in that area. Good point about the can opener…we use a manual opener and have an extra for spare in case that one breaks. And with canned foods, some of them come in their own juice (fruit and vegies) so no need to add water. Some people have expressed concern over the plastic lining in metal cans as far as chemicals leaching into the food, but the old rule of thumb is that the food should be ok as long as the can is not rusted or bulging. I try to buy what we like to eat, so we are regularly rotating our food in a timely manner.

  • Flattop

    Water is top priority. I have stored 15 cases of bottled water, which I rotate by donating it to my church. I purchased a 55 gal plastic barrel which had been used to ship olives, washed it out and filled it with water. I also have an empty plastic barrel in case there is a water source after shtf starts. 5 gal plastic buckets are also good for water storage. Think water for drinking/cooking, then think water for sanitation which can be debugged with bleach.

    • Kena K

      Yes, Flattop, water is top priority and I appreciate you sharing your ideas on water storage. We had a big barrel like you mentioned, but recently moved and downsized, so we got rid of that in our garage sale, but it is on my list to be replaced. Good for you for rotating your water so that you always have a fresh supply, that’s smart thinking.

  • NRP

    Thank you for not making this another “list” article, Lord knows there are enough of those around now days.
    I very much enjoyed your article, I don’t know how times I have told others to just start out small and grow, get to enjoy what your doing and learn skills to help in problem times. So many time one reads you need to get this or that, nonsense, ya need to grow into being prepared, not just going out and buy $10,000 of stuff you have no idea how to use or even know what it is.
    I, at times, get so crazy when all ya hear is prepper, prepper, prepper, NO!!!!! this is truly a “lifestyle” as you clearly seem to understand, it takes time, and effort, BUT it’s also very enjoyable and satisfying. I do believe the reason a lot of people fail at “prepping” is they get bored, again they go out and buy stuff, and in 3 months when TSHTF did NOT happen they lose interest and all that stuff sits in the garage and is forgotten about.
    I honestly feel at times when someone mentions they “want to get ‘into’ prepping” I just stand there wondering if they really want to just join the fad so they can brag to their buddies at the shooting range. Not really understanding the numbers of reasons to become more self sufficient, and ready (prepared) for the thousands of disasters that “can” happen, and actually do happen everyday.
    As a side note, a lot of people believe a lot of the risks are gone since Nov, 8. and everything is roses, do NOT allow yourself to be fooled that anyone can stop the natural disasters, or stop the “outside” threats (North Korea for example) that are still there. Now is the time to get started in the lifestyle. Whom better to take care of your family that yourself? FEMA? hahahaha…..ahhhh no not so much, remember Katrina (it only took 5 days to get water to the Super Dome) or any other failed attempt to care for the people in mass emergencies.
    Again, very good article
    NRP

    • Kena K

      Thank you NRP. I agree that prepping is a lifestyle and that people give up because they feel overwhelmed with the costs, space, time and rhetoric involved. My grandparents lived through the depression in the 1930’s, and after that, Grandma always stored extra food in the basement “just-in-case” so I imagine her thought was that they refused to go through that again. You also hear about people having a prepared area to go into in case of a tornado, the bunkers people made during in the 1960’s, or even now. Never hurts to have a few things on hand because like you said, we may experience difficult times/situations at some point in our lives, and we wouldn’t want to have to depend on the government or others. No matter how good their intentions may be, the circumstances may not allow them to get to you, or for you to get to them.

  • The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

    I enjoyed this article, and may refer to it as a “reference” work to some persons I know that think buying more “stuff” is the way to go..
    And NRPs’ note about the risks not having disappeared on Nov 08 are more true that ever. I actually think the internal risks are greater given the mindless actions of the useful idiots. Berkley being a prime example. The other risks associated with natural events and external factors still remain as well.
    So stock what you know you can use, and obtain new knowledge wherever you can.

    • Kena K

      Thank you The Deplorable Cruella DeVille! I too agree that politics shouldn’t be our only motivation, but that we should be prepared for “whatever”. Even getting stuck in your car during a trip in the winter is something to think about, so having a few things in your car is an excellent idea and may even be an easy place to start for a beginner, then bring a few things to the office, and just keep going from there!