Prepper Must-Haves: Vices

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Are vices really and truly a must-have item? No. History is full of periods and survival situations, particularly during the exploration of the colder climates, when even people accustomed to “modern” conveniences went months and years without goodies.

Our vices aren’t necessary to our survival in many cases, but when you cut us off from them, hard times and adjustments just get harder.

The ramifications on families and partnerships in stressful but not life-threatening situations are out there to be viewed in rates of dissolution’s, divorce, separation, domestic violence, addiction-abuse, and suits and counter-suits. If you think a crisis will smooth those away, I have a bridge to sell ya.

We can add one more stress to those difficult times, or we can find alternatives (some of them long-term sustainable) and plan supplies and caches to make things as easy as possible.

Top Vices

Some of the top vices are going to be sugar and caffeine, with tobacco and alcohol right there with them. I can’t do anything to prepare a family to lose internet and TV besides make sure we have puzzles and games, but I can slow our transition away from some of our other vices.

Bad times are already stressful, and we’re already looking at making some hard adjustments. Things that we consume daily before we even feel human are worth stocking – in bulk and out of proportion to the rest of my supplies, really.

If I like coffee, I might also consider stockpiling tea. I can get gallons to the cup per dollar for tea, without taking up much if any more space than pre-ground or instant coffee.

If I’m in a warm enough climate, I might even go so far as to plan greenhouse or protected space for a yaupon holly for caffeine and tea camellia species. Herbal teas will lack the zing, but many tea herbs have the benefit of being perennials and hardy.

There are a wide range of trees that can be tapped for syrup, all of which (and honey) will boil down into candy or can be dried to crystals. Sugar beets and stevia are just two options for producing sweet syrups and flavor at home even outside sugarcane territory.

Everyday Cravings = Higher Priorities

While we tend to look at sugar, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco as the common vices and see them high on bartering lists, they’re not the only things we’re doing without. Pure sugar is a fantastic preparedness item with both vice and food-preservation value, but we don’t all have a sweet tooth.

Our vices are our feel-goods.

They’re our comfort foods – be they salty or sweet or savory – activities, and even exercise or hobbies. All of those may be crimped in an emergency, whether it’s widespread or personal.

Know your actions, and those of family.

Just because my priority leads me to crunchy-salty goodies and chicken broth, and I am willing to scoff off sweets, without sweets my lover is pretty miserable. He is also annoying, gets antsy, and breaks down and goes to the store.

When determining priorities (and budgets), snag and stash the store receipts for a couple of weeks or months. Snag them ahead of holidays and in-family events as well. Do it in all four seasons.

They will rock-solid determine what you’re getting, and even when.

Just going by the shopping list and menu plan isn’t enough. I recently realized that a full third of our Walmart-supermarket spending is not on the lists. They’re not even impulse. They’re actually the things my lover ends up going to the store for because they aren’t on my radar as much.

Those are the kinds of everyday priority to watch for.

My vices, my parents, the kids’ – they’re taken into account with small, compact puzzles to bring out, stashed books, a portable hard drive of movies, little games, baking mixes, inexpensive instant pudding, Hershey’s syrup, and the ability to add crunch to our lives on a regular basis through familiar cold cereals, chips, crackers and dry cookies.

It didn’t actually add all that much to the preparedness budgets to do it, and it allows “treats” and normalcy in unrest, even if I never harvest anything else.

Anticipated Cravings

We can look at history and the way modern North Americans and Western Europeans eat to anticipate some of the food cravings we’re likely to see and can account for with our storage.

Meat – For most of us, meat is going to become a treat, just as it has been for most of human history. It will go back to being more of a flavoring, especially if a crisis drags on.

Anticipating that, I stock it.

I have no lost love for t-rats and MREs. I dislike canned meats pretty much across the board. But they’re in my pantries and caches, because the men in my life will dive after them, and I might wind up desperate enough to eat my share.

Things like pouches of bacon bits, canned hash, the less-expensive freeze-dried meats like crumbled sausage, and the TVP-soy products we can buy for long storage can at least give me and my guys some flavor and the hint of our usual meats.

Things like Slim Jim’s and small beef sticks can be used as a snack, presented as a whole to bite into, or sliced into cold pasta and wheat salads.

Non-Spoon Foods – Maybe somebody eats oatmeal and farina, soup for lunch, and Hamburger Helper or shepherd’s pie pretty much daily. Most of us are probably accustomed to picking up, cutting or stabbing something somewhere through there.

For parts of the growing season, we can adapt how we prepare fresh foods to create a fork-and-knife meal. Some fruit trees will also allow us to present a crunchy for weeks or sometimes a couple of months after harvest.

One advantage to MRE entrees like the feta chicken is that it’s not as gag-worthy, but also, it’s a nice, whole breast portion. You can flake it with a spoon, but you can also stick it on a bun or a bed of couscous.

Planning for pancakes and omelets, to turn Bisquick into pseudo-tortillas, stashing dry cookies in canning jars with oxygen absorbers, and stashing bigger pastas and spaghetti for fork meals will help alleviate the boredom with spoon meals.

Dairy/Cheese – Without dairy animals and specific skills, a long-term crisis will affect us hard and fast in the cheese category. We love fresh cheese. I’m lucky enough that we also really like Bega, and I buy it on sale cycles.

Local stores sell tins of mild cheddar chip sauce at a fairly reasonable price, and it can readily top potatoes or be used as a cracker spread or pretzel dip, even if chips are painful to store due to the bulk they require. Velveeta and Cheez Whiz live on shelves as-is, too. Cheese soup can season rice, potatoes and macaroni.

Powdered parm from the pasta aisle can at least impart some flavors and toast up on top of zucchini, or be used in pasta salad.

There are shelf-stable cheese sticks and slices from companies like Northwoods and those awful combo packets put out by Jack Links and others, but they’re almost as expensive as freeze-dried cheese (and soooo much worse tasting).

I also keep most of the cheese packets that come in our processed foods. I dislike them, but as mentioned in the article about canning jars, being able to whip them up to top or season something makes them well worth a few oxygen absorbers.

Portion Control

The canning jar article also talked about portion control, and how I accomplish it on a regular basis. That goes for both the annual “events” and the weekly-monthly allowances we put back.

If we’re accustomed to free-grazing coffee and tea (I am), we may very well start our path to ratcheting back by only pulling out enough for a day at a time instead of buying things in a giant tub. Maybe we only buy instant packets for a week or a month, and keep it somewhere *else* in the house or kitchen to keep us and our families from snagging out of habit. As we adjust to our new levels, we might bring it out more often.

Cool drinks are another place where we might portion things out.

Instead of mixing up a pitcher and trusting all the kids (and adults) to pour the same amounts, which is bound to lead to arguments (adults, too), maybe we stash a rotating couple of short juice bottles with the wider mouths. We mix up the pitcher, everybody gets their (labeled) bottles. Once that’s gone, that’s it. No discussion of “I only poured half a glass earlier” or “everybody’s pouring extra and I only got half a cup” or “I’ve only had one cup of coffee, but the whole tub is empty, and now I want my second cup with my cookie”.

And I’m serious – anticipate that stress and aggravation or just personalities will pull that crap out of adults as well.

Once things settle into a new normal, no big deal. But I can drink an entire pot of coffee without realizing it until it’s empty, and I’ve seen people mow through a bag of chips or pack of cookies one or two at a time without realizing just how many they’re having.

Portioning things out can also help us truly plan for daily, weekly and monthly uses.

Not everything needs to be strictly regimented, but some things are really easy, and would be easy to lean on early, until they’re all gone. That big stack of canned meats looks like a lot, but can drop fast.

A case of canning jars (or three) and a couple of boxes or kitty litter buckets labelled 1-12, cold or warm, lets us really and truly portion things out.

Pudding fits 3, 5 or 6-8 in a jar, and might be a monthly or quarterly allowance. We might stick our Lorna Doone’s and Cheez-Its in baggies before we put them in a Mylar bag, and take out only this week’s or month’s to jazz up a plate or have as a snack. Instead of just calling it “good” with a few dollar-store boxes of Slim Jims and pepperoni, a test run and then busting in and separating will help them last, in an appropriate amount.

Vices in a Crisis

Not all disasters are equal. Some are very personal, and some are widespread – localized, regional, national, international. Some are short term, while some leave a question mark and some we can anticipate being truly devastating and taking years to recover from.

Or stored supplies and our resupply-production plans should reflect those varying possibilities.

Regardless of the crisis, it’s likely to be stressful. Change itself is stressful. Combining the two is already a recipe for hard times.

Adding the dynamic of spouses and family, any partners, and the potential of neighbors and coworkers to still be contending with creates additional stresses and variables.

Regularly our vices are not all that good for us. It’s still not a great idea to go cold turkey on all of them immediately or shortly after a life-altering job loss, spouse/partner death that affects funds, natural disaster, long-term outage or rolling brown-outs, or big-time disaster.

At no other time in our lives are we likely to be so grateful for whatever our vice is – a couple little cookies and a cup of tea, strawberry syrup for topping pancakes, campfire tin-can cakes topped with applesauce, something nice and salty and crunchy, popcorn with Molly McButter, a cracker-cheese-meat snack or meal after a week of beans and various grains, a new puzzle or game, the ability to put our feet up and watch a show, or delighting Grandpa and the kids with some little Lego vehicle kits to then race across the dining room table.

With a little forethought and planning, we can readily and affordably still have and give our loved ones those feel-goods, to enjoy with a candlelit game of Tsuro or clustered around a screen watching old cartoons. They’ll offer breaks from reality, just as they do now, and help destress our lives a little.

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36 Comments on "Prepper Must-Haves: Vices"

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GregChick
Guest

An honest conservation, I am a plumber and I find that running hot and cold water is a demanded necessity.
So, whatever on the snacks, in a pinch showers become very popular…..

JD
Guest

One could always heat water manually, nonetheless, you are not gonna make factory style snacks and candies. Nor is anyone gonna make my favorite cigar. I’ll take the time and spend the money to add these things to the stockpile thank you very much.

R. Ann
Guest

I actually thought about doing an article on various systems for short- and long-term handwashing and showers, and some of the heating and fuel-saving partial-heating options for water.
It’s on my to-do list at the moment, but I’d love to see your take on it (and Greg’s and some of the other regular contributors to the site and comments).

-Rebecca Ann

R. Ann
Guest
There are a full dozen ways to heat water and have it hanging or sitting somewhere with a faucet or head, which you may be including (I may be misinterpreting your definition of “running” water). A lot of them aren’t all that expensive, although getting the water up/out may be depending on infrastructure. There are also a full dozen or two mini-crises, local or regional upsets, and personal disasters that spring to mind where water is unaffected, but the budget is. I see your point, and I have great affection for indoor plumbing, but the difference of price between most… Read more »
Arcangel911
Guest

a warm or hot shower after weeks of cold ones? Big morale booster

JD
Guest

Well thought out and good advice! (As usual, I’ve yet to read a bad article from you!) It can be amazing how just the little things like these can really make a crappy situation somewhat tolerable. As I can be miserable without my vices..

R. Ann
Guest
Thank you – That’s an enormous compliment, especially coming from you. I’m a total zombie and grouchy grumble gremlin without my vices, so I’m with you. I can react to emergencies, but it’s almost more of an insult when something happens to upset my silly little start-of-phase routines for the day. 🙂 The addiction thing is its own topic nearly, to me. The indulgences … they apply across the board, addicts or enthusiasts or just a passing interest or periodic treat. It’s funny how just a little taste of home or small tidbit of indulgence – whether it’s something we… Read more »
GregChick
Guest

I’m such a bore, I just want to flush a toilet. This addiction topic may be a way to actually scare people into prepping! Being that they can’t possibly
imagine the loss of modern life, but they may have been occasionally deprived of their addiction, and be able to actually imagine a day with out a drink, smoke or what ever. On this level, the reality of SHTF is plausible and therefore needs to be dealt with.

R. Ann
Guest
I have a deep and abiding love of indoor plumbing. I’ve done without them often enough. I’m 100% with you there. TP, too. One of the main points I was trying to make was that the vices/addictions we have aren’t JUST those main 3-4 that get touted so often (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine +/- sugar). There’s the things we already crave and indulge in like popcorn, meats, dairy, crisps, breads, taters and gravy, and even things like alternatives to the information at our fingertips due to the internet, games and distractions, books and magazines, movies and TV, our arts and crafts,… Read more »
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
You are certainly on a roll lately! Another excellent topic…. 🙂 I have relatively few vices, but I get pretty grumpy without coffee in the AM… So I have several hundred pounds of individual serving size freeze dried instant put away. I also home-brew beer, although I have not planted hops as yet, and I’m not at all sure about my long term abilities in that regards. Others have mentioned water and how “precious” a hot, running water, shower might be. I worked around that one after the forth episode of no power for a week following either a hurricane,… Read more »
R. Ann
Guest
Thank you! I actually expected a lot of counter arguments for calling it a must-have, in whatever form “it” might take. Maybe some of the reasonable counter points will roll in. You’re one of those “others” I was thinking of when I mentioned the potential of an article in the earlier comment. **Edit: Somewhere way earlier water and some of the dedicated systems came up – I’ll try to remember what article it was. I know half a dozen non-powered ways to create a dry-camp or pumped-water shower & hand-wash station, but I tend to leave the alternative power stuff… Read more »
GregChick
Guest

I agree, and mostly my point is that in some situations, pressurized water from a piping system is not a given. To be a bit sarcastic, a gun wont get you a hot shower. An assumption in my experience is that running water is a given when it is not. Either power can shut down water feed or just the ability to heat the water.

JD
Guest
To be a bit nefarious, a gun could get a hot shower. In a true wrol situation, if someone happens to see you doing well, i.e. a big garden, smells of food cooking, live stock, generator running, who’s to say they just won’t kill you and take everything you have. Including your running hot water. There are preppers out there that don’t believe in guns, which is a deadly mistake. Lots of people think everyone will be out to help everybody in a shtf situation. But I can promise you, these people exist, both now, and will be more prominent… Read more »
GregChick
Guest

So sorry to agree with you, JD, I too often live in a fantasy land. Just imagine a half a million people packed on a 100 acre farm, it would be like Woodstock right? the only worry would be the brown acid….

JD
Guest

Lmao! Stay away from the brown acid!!!!! Lol

The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

I posted an article on the solar pressurized water, on “I think” this site a couple years ago when it was still in the experimental stages. I’llsee if I can track down the gory details. I’m a tinkerer by nature and trade, so I do a lot of “weird” stuff as needed….

The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

Here ya go. While this project was till in the experimental phase. There’s been a fair number of changes to make it permenant, and simpler…
“Powering Your Survival Homestead”

R. Ann
Guest

Cool. I’ll look it up. Thank you!

James Gattis
Guest

I’m a smoker so having tobacco on hand, no matter how old or rank is better than nothing, Also, a big “vice” today is pain meds, that bottle your dentist gave you would be worth a fortune for trade, and pills usually have a very long shelf life. Just sayin’..

The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

Interesting you mention the pain meds – I had my shoulder rewired a few years ago, during which they used a regional in the brachial plexus, but they were also kind enough to provide me with 300 oxycodone tabs. I never took a one, relying upon ibuprofen instead. They are now ensconced in my BO cache in a vacuum bag along with some silica gel packets.
In shtf they will be money…

R. Ann
Guest
I feel you. I actually used to stock some of those Phillies that are less than a standard cigarette in cost because of the taxes, but cover some of the cig smokers and are small enough to move through for the cigar guys in one of our humidors. Then I found the eCig V3 guy, and it’s so fast to charge, uses so little power to charge, and is so close to a cigarette-cigarette compared to the other style and flavors of Vapes, it’s what I stock for my own use now. One of the little screw-ons is about the… Read more »
Huples
Guest

Consider stocking nicorette gum or growing tobacco and finding willow trees

Kathy Bonwit
Guest

What is Bega. Search it and found city in Aussie. Lighting company.

R. Ann
Guest
It’s a type of canned cheese from Australia with no expiration date, meant for bush country without power. So long as it stays above 35F and below 85F, it has almost no shelf life. We had cases that went back and forth in summertime back-of-truck and enclosed-trailer transport twice now, in excess of 3 and 5 years old, definitely hitting above that (like, it was above that OUTSIDE as we were moving them a year+ apart) that has the mildest of color changes but no flavor or smell change. It’s not really spreadable unless it’s warmed a bit. You can… Read more »
R. Ann
Guest
I very rarely brand-name drop, either with a company or a specific product. I don’t usually buy from CampingSurvival – I consider them overpriced largely. When they have a deep sale, though, in this one case, because I love the flavor and the versatility is so huge, and an actual finger-food cheese is so rare for storage, I don’t mind doing so this time. I think last time, we had to pre-order and by the case was the only way it made sense to do it with CampingSurvival, but that was still the best price online that I could find.… Read more »
GregChick
Guest

Share a large order with local preppers? I am not interested, but that may be a thing to do here…

R. Ann
Guest
Share? My family’s lucky I share that cheese with them! 😉 I just order a case or so at a whack. They’re relatively small cans (like the tins of nacho cheese size, a bit wider for the bigger can) so it’s something we can move through reasonably 1-2 tins at a time, and since it’s not usually abused, it can sit there for years while I remind myself to be good. Usually I split my own order between my pantry and my “be good and don’t eat these now” storage, and a case to donate to the holiday baskets for… Read more »
GregChick
Guest

Do you write well, and think the idea of others here offering a bulk buy thing by grouping orders of any prepper supply could be a feature of the site? Some supply places offer free freight and a lower price with volume. I agree it would be a regional sort of feature, but possible many regions have a few preppers online here. A discussion of product would be symbiotic part of the conversation…

R. Ann
Guest
That would totally be a Pat cookie. I will say, I’ve seen it attempted on some of the forums here and there and it’s like herding cats. Even things like the trap group of a local private club organizing a group buy on JUST shotgun shells of two gauges and the same shot can turn into a headache. Too, you have to have a lot of things in place: – Local preppers willing to admit they’re local; and a local rally point – Payment form (ideally, prepayment) — cash, Paypal, checks, money orders, or cards? And then somebody to turn… Read more »
GregChick
Guest

Herding cats, Such a great term. There I go back to falling for the brown acid.. Yea, local clubs, CERTS, and others are best for that.

EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest

R. Ann,
Another great article! We have been stocking up on the airline size bottles of booze at a very reasonable price, and other “commodities” for our “barter store”, including candy bars we’ve packed for long term storage and freshness. We also include tobacco products, mostly roll-yer-own papers and loose (prison/jail) tobacco, which for the smokers, is better than nothing.
Figure that we can always find “somebody” that needs them…
and the ammo we stockpile is just for us. We aren’t sharing unless things get testy, then, that sharing is only a one way proposition.

Milkshakesuds
Guest
I understand the idea of comfort food, especially in an uncomfortable situation but if one is in the habit of eating processed food, chocolate, potato chips, slim jims etc and drinking soda pop or other sugary drinks your crisis is going to be your health and its not very likely you’ll survive long after a shtf episode. If you do partake of these items you are without question overweight, loaded with trans-fats and sugar and not physically fit plus your wasting money on no nutrition items when that money could be better spent. No matter how much prepping you’ve done… Read more »
R. Ann
Guest
Not sure where you come from or just how much you indulge in something when you indulge, but there’s a difference between a goody, indulgence or splurge and constant binging. “If you do partake of these items you are without question overweight, loaded with trans-fats and sugar and not physically fit” – I was 135-150#, 5’10” female Marine running my 3 in 19min, 6-12 miles a day, through packing, hunting/hauling, hauling and moving square bales on my own, and splitting 4 cases of beer and a fifth with 3 other chicks 2-3 nights a week, smoking half a pack to… Read more »
R. Ann
Guest
I saw the email message with your response – it’s just not showing up here (yet?). I didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you if I end up distracted and don’t remember to keep looking for it, so I’ll reply without it. I’ll repeat two things, one from the article and one from my first response: – Vices aren’t just foods; they’re also activities, and while many are not great for health, some aren’t unhealthy – I believe in “everything in moderation: If you think I’m the only jarhead who smoke, drank booze, and ate crap, and still… Read more »
Arcangel911
Guest

That last photo of the kid in the aisle, not the aisle you want to be down when it does down.

R. Ann
Guest
I just saw this. (Putting an email in the last article has me flipping to other articles for questions here and there.) Made me grin. Hugely. A day or so ahead of a hurricane in Maryland (no evac orders) I wasn’t really thinking. I tend to miss the disasters that stores will be, any kind of disaster, because I have my stuff and forget others won’t. I wanted some kind of obscure jam for a poultry glaze for a new recipe, and didn’t think twice, just suggested we pop into this higher-end supermarket. The parking lot is always a disaster… Read more »
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