The Last Minute Shopping Trip

There you are at the local grocery store, picking up what you’ll need for the coming week. You’ve been here countless times and know the store like the back of your hand so you’re operating sort of on autopilot. Your phone buzzes and you glance at the screen, expecting to see yet another picture of your newborn nephew that your sister posted on Facebook. Instead, you are frozen by the message you see.

Major quakes along New Madrid fault. Massive damage is being reported in many locations. The balloon has gone up.

This message was sent to you by a trusted friend, a prepper and a member of your mutual assistance group. That last sentence about the balloon is a code phrase telling you this is a major situation and one likely to have far reaching ramifications.

Few of the sheeple around you at the store likely know anything about the disaster as of yet. Doubtful any of them would recognize the implications of it, either. However, you’re savvy enough to realize supply chains are going to be disrupted, likely for some time to come. Massive resources will need to be rerouted to lend assistance to those directly affected by the quakes.

As word gets out about the disaster and people start giving more thought to it, odds are pretty good that the shelves of the store you’re in right now will be wiped clean by the end of the day.

Given this insight, you have an interesting opportunity in front of you. You could stock up for the long haul, just in case things get nasty later, and not have to deal with throngs of sheeple clamoring and fighting for the last loaf of bread.

Your time is limited. You want to grab your goodies and get the hell out of Dodge before folks in the area wise up.

So, what do you buy?

The answer is going to be a bit different for each person, based on what they already have at home as well as the family’s food preferences. On top of that, of course, is the financial end of things. How will you pay for a massive cartload of groceries? To answer the second question first, if possible try to have at least one credit card available to you that has a low balance. Use this card ONLY for emergencies and pay it off as quickly as you can any time you use it. This gives you a cushion of buying power just for situations like this, as well as emergency car repairs, an unexpected hotel stay, and other similar situations.

Ok, back to our grocery store scenario. As I said before, you want to get out of the store as quickly as possible. Planning ahead will save you time. Sit down and make a “dream” shopping list. Put on that list everything and anything normally stocked at your grocery store that you’d want to be sure to grab during your last ditch shopping trip. Here are just a few ideas.

Canned veggies, fruit, meat
Canned soup, pasta, stew, chili
Dry beans and pasta
Powdered milk
Bottled water
Powdered drink mixes
Granola bars, protein bars
Baking mixes
Baking soda
Baking powder
Gravy mixes
Peanut butter
Fresh fruit and veggies
Fresh meat
Toilet paper
Feminine hygiene

Personally, knowing the layout of my grocery store as well as I do, I’m confident I could load all that up and be at the registers within 15 minutes or less. What I suggest is, after making your list, put it in your wallet or purse. Think about it like this — you’ll probably never need it but you’ve invested all of maybe 10 minutes of your life into making the list and it might prove invaluable someday.

In our scenario here of a series of quakes along the New Madrid fault, we’re not looking at a likelihood of massive power outages outside the immediately affected areas. Therefore, fresh meat and such can still be frozen or refrigerated at home. This isn’t truly a “stock up for the end of the world” situation but rather stocking up in advance of anticipated shortages.

Worth noting, too, is the law of supply and demand. As supplies of food and other essentials decrease, demand is going to increase. This often leads to higher prices. Stocking up in advance of this will save you money in the long run, as well as keep your family fed.

Note: Please do not take this post to mean that you should plan on heading to the store as soon as you hear about a possible disaster coming your way. That’s exactly what everyone else will be doing and you want to avoid crowds, not run toward them. The takeaway here is that by planning ahead, you might find yourself in a position where you can take advantage of some advance warning.

8 Uses for a Walking Stick

Walking sticks come in all shapes and sizes, from fancy adjustable models you can buy at REI and other sporting goods stores to a branch you pick up during a hike and whittle into shape. No matter where you get it, a walking stick is a valuable addition to your survival kit.

What are the qualities of a good walking stick?

First, it should be both light and strong. A store-bought model might be made of aluminum. If you’re on the hunt for a DIY approach, look for strong wood like oak, ash, hickory, or walnut. With a wood walking stick, you want it to be completely dry, no “green” wood. I’ve even seen some DIY walking sticks made from PVC.

Personally, I much prefer wood for my walking sticks. If I’m out hiking, it just feels “right” to be using wood rather than a man-made material. But, to each his or her own.

As for weight, this is a judgment call and is different for everyone. You want the walking stick to be as light as possible, so as to limit the possibility of fatigue from carrying it. But, at the same time, you don’t want to sacrifice strength of the stick.

Length and thickness are largely a matter of personal preference. Go with what feels good in your hand. For many people, a stick that is tall enough to reach to or just below their sternum seems about right. Too short and you’ll be leaning down when moving downhill. Too tall and it will feel cumbersome. For thickness, I like about 1.5″ or so.

A strap attached near where your hand is most comfortable on the stick will help relieve stress on your wrist. What I do is sort of rest my wrist in the strap, letting the strap take the weight of my arm when I’m at rest.

So, why should you want a walking stick? Here are eight reasons:

Balance – a walking stick can be a big help when negotiating uneven terrain.

Reach – if you have a need to get at something hanging in a tree or floating away from you in a pond, a walking stick can extend your reach considerably.

Gauging depth — when traversing a stream or river, it is important to be able to watch out for dips that could cause you to stumble. Same thing goes for when trying to move through deep snow.

Clearing a path — by holding the stick upright in front of you, it can be used to part branches, leaves, or brush.

Defense – a walking stick can obviously be a weapon, whether your attacker is on two legs or four. Further to this point, you can carry a walking stick in most buildings where other weapons are prohibited. However, I will say you’ll probably have less hassles doing so if your walking stick is “finished” looking, rather than just a dead branch you picked up in the woods an hour prior.

Fishing – you can tie your line to the end of the walking stick to turn it into an expedient fishing pole. Many a fish has been caught in this fashion.

Shelter support — if you find yourself needing to spend an unexpected night outdoors, your walking stick can work as a ridge pole or support pole for a cobbled together emergency shelter.

Spear – while I don’t necessarily advocate this unless it is absolutely necessary, you can tie a knife to the end of your walking stick to make a spear. NEVER throw the spear, though. Keep it in your hands and thrust at the target. Throwing it will likely damage your knife and the odds of you hitting your target without prior experience are somewhere between slim and none.

Carry gear — use a shemagh to package your small gear into a bindle and tie to the end of the stick to carry everything hobo style.

If you think about it, the walking stick might very well have been the very first multi-tool!

6 Ways to Increase the Prepping Budget

There’s really no way around it, prepping costs money. Even those who rely upon a very minimalist approach still have to purchase a few things here and there. Those little things can add up quickly, too. In today’s economy, few of us have a ton of “fun money” sitting around. As a result, we sometimes find ourselves deciding between our current needs versus what we might need down the road if disaster strikes.

Here, then, are a few ways you can increase the prepping budget.

Buy low, sell high
If you have some skill with recognizing good deals at rummage sales and such, you can bring in a bit of money buying these items cheap and selling them yourself. You don’t even need to set up your own rummage sale, either, nor dink around with auction sites like ebay. There are a TON of groups on Facebook that are all about selling and buying used items, and all geographically based. Meaning, there is probably at least one, if not several, groups operating in your own local area. What is nice about this approach is you don’t have to pay for shipping and it is cash based, so no worries about someone reversing a charge later.

Of course, this also means you’ll need to spend some time locating the items to buy, as well as coming up with the funds to make the initial purchases. But, for many people, this is a fun hobby that also happens to bring in a few extra bucks.

All the news that’s fit to print
In many areas, newspaper delivery remains a way to earn a decent part-time income. Gone are the days, at least around here, where young boys toured the streets on their bikes, aiming for the front hedge. Instead, many delivery routes are done handled by adults and from cars or trucks. Not all, of course, as I do see a few people walking with wagons and such. In any event, it might be worth your time to inquire at local newspaper offices about available routes. Typically, the routes are either very early morning (daily newspapers) or late afternoon deals (weekly or biweekly papers).

Newspaper delivery might not pay a ton of money, likely maybe $100 a week depending on the number of houses on a route, but you’re also only working a few hours a day, with plenty of time to do other things later.

Turn skills into cash
I think all of us have at least one hobby or skill that could be profitable. Perhaps you are rather crafty and love to combine a hot glue gun and some glitter to make something no one has ever seen before. Maybe you really know your way around a sewing machine. Or you do your best work with your hands deep into a lawnmower engine. No matter what the hobby or skill is, I’d bet someone somewhere will pay you to do it.

I was at a flea market several years ago and saw the dumbest thing for sale. It was three or four pieces of landscape timber, cut to different lengths and screwed together. They had then wrapped sisal twine around the top and bottom, giving it something of an old pier piling look. They had bored a hole in the top of the longest timber and stuck in a solar landscape light. Then, they glued a plastic frog to one of the other timbers. All told, they’d spent maybe $6 on materials and it probably took them 15-20 minutes to assemble each one. People were lining up to buy these damn things at $35 each!

Earn other people’s security deposits
If you know any landlords in your area, talk to them about doing the cleaning and painting between tenants. Sure, occasionally a renter will leave a place just absolutely filthy upon leaving but quite often it is just a matter of shampooing the carpets and painting the walls. If you can do it even a little cheaper than the competition, you’ll likely get the gig.

Some landlords may also be agreeable to allowing you to take possession of abandoned property, the junk the former tenants leave behind. While most of it will just be trash, occasionally you may find stuff worth keeping or perhaps selling online.

Write your own checks
As more and more people start their own websites and blogs, several different services have cropped up where you can get paid to write content for sites. Textbroker is merely one example of how this works. (Note, this is NOT an endorsement for Textbroker, I’m merely using them for illustration purposes. I’ve not worked with them personally so can’t speak to how well they treat writers.) Basically, you sign up and submit one or two pieces of writing so they can gauge your skill level. Once approved, you can peruse what amount to classified ads seeking content. You pick and choose the subjects with which you are familiar or are interested in. Meet the deadline, word count, and other criteria specified and get paid.

Now, most services like that pay what amounts to a pittance. On average, you’ll probably only make about five bucks per article. But, the articles are usually pretty short (~400 words or so) and if you’re a fast (and competent) writer, you can likely produce five or six articles in a couple of hours.

Many traditional magazines still pay a decent rate, too. Head to your local library and find a recent copy of Writer’s Market. Look up your own favorite magazines and see if they accept freelance material. Or, just do a Google search for “[magazine name] submission guidelines.” If they do accept freelance submissions, follow the instructions TO THE LETTER. You’ll need a thick skin as the vast majority of submissions to any given publication are rejected for one of many different reasons. But, if you enjoy writing and have some degree of skill with doing so, this can lead to a pretty decent part-time income.

Reduce your overall expenses.
Yes, this sounds like common sense and you likely already know this, at least in theory. But, it is important enough to be worth mentioning. Every dollar you save somewhere else can be put towards prepping. If you can go without the $5 latte a couple times a week, that could add up to $40 or more at the end of the month. If clipping coupons saves you $12 on the grocery bill this week, put that into the prepping savings account. You may be surprised just how fast the nickels and dimes add up.

3 Common Misconceptions about Bugging Out

Bugging out has long been a staple of survival planning. However, as with many other areas of prepping, there is a whole ton of bad information out there. Here are just a few of the most glaring misconceptions when it comes to planning to bug out.

Misconception: Bugging out should be my primary plan.
Reality check: Most preppers have stockpiled at least some amount of food, water, and other supplies. Why, then, should the primary plan be to leave all or most of it behind? There are some scenarios where bugging out makes perfect sense but in most cases, sheltering in place should be the primary plan, with bugging out being the backup option.

Remember, once you leave your home with your bug out bag, you are nothing more than a refugee.

Misconception: Heading off to the wilderness to live off the land is the best bug out plan.
Reality check: First, few people are truly skilled and experienced enough to live off the land for extended periods of time. Further, most of them who are will be the first to tell you it isn’t all it is cracked up to be.

Second, once you’ve made it to the Great White North or wherever it is you plan to hole up, then what? I’ve found very few people who are planning on doing so have actually thought beyond that point. There you are, safely ensconced in your debris hut or lean to. Now what? For how long do you plan to hide in the woods?

Third, I’ve found a lot of people who are relying on this sort of plan are figuring the big bugaboo will be martial law, economic collapse, or perhaps a combination of those two scenarios. That’s all well and good but what’s the plan for the FAR MORE LIKELY natural disasters and such? I mean, let’s say it is something like Hurricane Katrina. Would it have made much sense to head off into the bush then?

Misconception: I need a cache of gold or silver because money will be worthless.
Reality check: While having a stash of precious metals isn’t the worst idea in the world, don’t overlook just plain old cash. Again, playing the odds, it is far more likely you’ll be able to use dollars than need to rely upon gold or silver. For example, if you’re heading out of town because massive civil unrest seems to be overtaking the city, you’ll probably still be able to fork over a couple of twenties for some gas and bottled water at a convenience store. Show up with a few gold coins instead and you might walk away empty handed.

The best approach here would be to hedge your bets and have both gold/silver coins as well as normal currency in your pack.

None of this is to mean you shouldn’t have a plan for bugging out. Indeed, it is a vital component of your overall survival plans. But, it is something that requires a lot of practical thought as well as common sense.

The Dangers of “Better Than Nothing”

It’s better than nothing is a phrase you see over and over in prepper forums. Whether the folks involved are talking about retailers, brand names, or just products in general, it’s better than nothing is what is often tossed out to validate a purchase of decidedly less than ideal gear.

The it’s better than nothing reasoning is a trap, nothing more.

Here’s why.

Falling into the better than nothing mindset leads to complacency and even laziness. This is how it often plays out. “Joe” buys a prepackaged bug out bag from one or another discount retailer. He spends about forty bucks on it and figures he got a pretty good deal. I mean, the kit has, among other things, a couple of emergency blankets, some matches, a flashlight, water bottle, a signal whistle, and a multi-tool. Joe thinks, “Well, that’s good enough for now, better than nothing.” He then tosses the kit into his trunk and doesn’t give much more thought to it.

About six months go by and Joe is headed home from a late night at work when his car breaks down. The battery for his cell phone is dead, of course, since he never remembers to charge it. No worries, he thinks, and pulls out his whiz-bang awesome survival kit. Taking out the crank flashlight, the handle snaps off the first time he turns it. Oh well, there should be enough moonlight to see under the hood and maybe diagnose the problem. Ah, that’s the culprit, a battery cable came loose! Sliding the multi-tool from the survival kit, Joe tries to tighten down the cable. Um, yeah, not so much. Seems the pivot hinge on the multi-tool is stuck. It won’t open fully, nor will it close up now. Since the kit is open and it is getting rather chilly, Joe pulls out the emergency blanket and shakes it open…whereupon it promptly tears along each of the major fold lines, leaving him with nothing more than thin strips of material.

The phrase better than nothing implies that the item provides at least minimal value in a situation. Anyone care to explain how, exactly, this $40 survival kit lent anything other than frustration?

Most of these better than nothing products, from budget multi-tools to inexpensive full blown kits, are a danger. Not because they may hurt you directly but because they lead you to believe they are good enough to rely upon in an emergency. Remember, we’re not talking about a $5 popcorn maker you picked up during a Black Friday doorbuster sale. These are products you are purchasing for the sole, or at least primary, purpose of keeping you safe and alive. Do you really want to entrust that responsibility to something that is shoddily made and untested?

Now, before I get accused of being an elitist snob when it comes to gear, I’m not saying you must go out and spend top dollar on brand name products. My regular readers here know I value a great deal and encourage you to shop around to get the best possible prices on anything you need to purchase. However, no matter how cheap it is, it isn’t a good deal if the item is faulty or outright doesn’t work as intended. Each and every piece of gear you buy should be fully tested before socking it away for future use. If it doesn’t work, return it and get something different. If it kinda/sorta works, that shouldn’t be seen as good enough.

Avoid the better than nothing rationale!

Look, more and more discount retailers are stocking alleged “prepping” supplies. Quite often, you get what you pay for. In far too many cases, the products sold are not well made and won’t last under normal, let alone rugged, use. They are being sold merely to capitalize on the popularity of prepping in today’s world.

About the only thing many of these cheap products will do is make you feel good about having purchased some new gear. And that good feeling will disappear the first time you try to actually use the items.

Three Rules for Choosing Barter Items

Surfing the web, you can find hundreds of lists of items people suggest setting aside for possible use in barter transactions after a collapse.  Obviously, this isn’t a topic that falls into the localized disaster discussions but is reserved for those who are preparing for potentially long-term scenarios, situations where current forms of currency will likely be worthless.

The idea is to have a stash of goodies you can use to trade for things you may need.  This isn’t a bad idea, provided you use common sense.  Rather than recite just one more list of possible barter items, instead here are my three rules for choosing which items may work best for you.

First, the items must have inherent value to you.  What I mean is, don’t stockpile stuff you will probably never use yourself.  There is a strong possibility you may never have the opportunity or need to use your chosen wampum for trade.  Focus on items that you would have a use for anyway.

Next, the items must be relatively shelf-stable.  Disregard any items that are even somewhat perishable and concentrate on the ones that will last a long time.  Unless you have a very reliable offgrid means of ensuring stable temperatures, avoid anything that will go bad in high heat or humidity.

Finally, items must be relatively inexpensive today.  It makes very little sense to spend thousands of dollars on barter goods.  Further, many of the things that are likely to have the most value after a collapse are pretty darn cheap today.  For example, you can buy a 25lb bag of table salt at Costco for under five bucks.  After a collapse, salt will probably be well sought after, for a variety of reasons.

Note, though, that this doesn’t mean the items you choose should necessarily be cheap, just that you shouldn’t pay a ton of money for them.  If you see a set of decent quality hand tools at a rummage sale and you can get them for just a few bucks, snap them up!  They’ll probably fetch a good price later.  If you never have to use them as barter, you’ll at least have extras in case one of your tools breaks or gets lost.

The idea behind stocking up on barter items is to provide you with a way to make “purchases” when currency is worthless.  By following the above three very simple rules, you can avoid spending money needlessly.

Is Cheaper Always Better?

I would hazard a guess that most preppers are not independently wealthy.  I’d even go so far as to say a whole lot of preppers are just about flat broke, living paycheck to paycheck, and having a difficult time fitting preps into the budget.  Thus, you find over 100,000 hits on Google for “dollar store preps.”  But is that really the way you should go when prepping on a budget?

Sure, you can find things like bandages, canned food, and tools at the dollar store.  However, the quality of an awful lot of the products sold is pretty shoddy.  If you buy a set of wrenches at a dollar store, don’t be surprised if they bend into a pretzel shape the first time you encounter a stubborn nut.  Flashlights probably won’t last more than a couple of days of regular use, new batteries or not.

Look, I’m all about trying to save money but if I feel I might have to truly rely on a product or item to keep me alive or safe, I’m going to spend a little bit more for higher quality.

And even if the quality of that dollar store find is passable, you might actually get a better deal elsewhere.  Adhesive bandages are a great example.  You could buy a box of 20 assorted bandages for a buck…or go to Walgreens or Walmart and spend four bucks for 100+ bandages.

I know, I know, the argument goes something like well, dollar store stuff is better that nothing!  Y’know, I’d argue that point.  Quite often, people become complacent and buy into that thought process.  The problem is doing so gives a false sense of security.  They buy the cheap stuff, figuring that at some point later they’ll be able to afford to upgrade.  The reality is that someday never comes and they may end up facing a disaster with shoddy gear and batteries that passed their real life span years ago.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.  Dollar store finds are rarely ever truly great deals, at least not in terms of disaster supplies.

Now, right about this point, some readers may accuse me of being a snob or elitist because I dislike shopping at places like dollar stores.  Look, I’m all for buying generic or store brands if the quality is comparable to the brand name.  It makes zero sense to me to spend so much as a nickel on something I’m confident is going to break the first time I use it.  How in the world is that saving you any money?

This does not mean every “deal” out there is a bad idea.  Far from it, actually.  If you’re diligent about haunting rummage sales and hitting the clearance section of stores, you can find some great stuff at discounted prices.  I know a guy who scours Craigslist twice every single day.  Because of that, he falls into some absolutely incredible deals, like a 3500 watt generator that was like new for about $100.  No, deals like that don’t appear every single day but if you never look, you’ll never see them when they do crop up.

Same thing with rummage sales.  You’ll never find the deals if you don’t leave your house.  And you won’t find a great buy at every single stop, either.  You might hit as many as 20 rummage sales and come up empty…and then you get to the 21st one.  There, you find an almost new camp stove for ten bucks and a couple of cast iron skillets for five bucks each.  Or maybe the kids are cleaning out Dad’s old house and have absolutely no idea just what those knives are really worth, they just want to get rid of them.  Deals like those are out there and happen all the time.

The takeaway here is this–don’t fall into the better than nothing trap. If you find yourself stranded on the side of the road due to a vehicle breakdown, you really don’t want to be standing there with a dollar store flashlight, trying to figure out why the damn thing won’t turn on anymore.

Dealing with Post-Collapse Visitors

So there you are, safely ensconced in your retreat.  Society has collapsed in the wake of a major disaster and survivors are plugging along, trying to find food, water, and shelter.  You were smart enough to have stockpiled enough provisions to last you and your family for several months.

Then comes a knock on the door or maybe an alarm gets tripped, alerting you to someone approaching.  It appears to be a family, mom and dad with two young children.  None of them look like they’ve eaten in at least a few days and last bathed even further in the past.  None of them appear armed and they have made no threatening gestures as of yet.

What do you do?

Would your answer change if it was just the two kids and there were no adults visible in the area?  What if it was a single woman or man?

This can be something of a moral dilemma.  On the one hand, you don’t want to expose your own family to any risks, whether that be the visitors becoming hostile or just through reducing your own supplies through charity.  On the other hand, would your conscience give you trouble later if you didn’t at least do something to help them?  I mean, let’s play role reversal here and pretend for a moment you were separated from your family at the time of the disaster.  If they were in need of help, wouldn’t you want someone to step in and lend a hand if you weren’t there to provide for them yourself?

Now, I know some of you will have precautions in place that will prevent anyone from getting within 100 yards or more of your home.  That’s all well and good but it still doesn’t negate the possibility of being visited by one or more people.

If your attitude is you’ll just shoot anyone who approaches, no matter what, grow up and move out of mommy’s basement. 

The reality is life isn’t going to be like playing endless rounds of Kill ‘Em All on your Xbox.  These are human beings you’re dealing with, the vast majority of whom aren’t necessarily out to steal your water nor women but are just trying to live for one more day.  That said, you have no way to know with absolute certainty the intentions of any unexpected visitors.  Those two kids might be totally innocent…or they could be part of a ruse to draw you out.

What about a care package?

One idea that has been floated around here and there is to assemble small care packages of some sort.  Something like a 5 gallon bucket filled with a couple of water bottles, a can or two of food (with a P-38 can opener or something similar), small bar of soap, washcloths, some strike anywhere matches, and maybe some fishing line with a few hooks.  The idea behind such a care package is you are giving them the means to live another day as well as improve their situation just a touch by giving them something they can use later (the fishing line and matches) to keep going.

We’re working on the assumption that there are no emergency shelters in the area, of course.  If there were such shelters running, that would be where you’d want to direct these folks.

I have mixed feelings about this idea.  While helping a fellow human being is laudable, if word gets out that you have enough extra stuff that you are giving some away, you might be increasing the number of people who come your way.  Plus, there’s the matter of handing off the care package to begin with.  That could be a risky proposition in and of itself.  To solve the latter problem, what some people propose is stashing the bucket somewhere adjacent to the home, such as under a certain bush at the far end of your property.  You’d do this well in advance, just assuming at some point it will be needed.  Then, if someone shows up looking for a helping hand, you direct them to the bucket’s location, with the instructions being that’s all there is to give and if they show up again, things might not go so well for them.

Another consideration, of course, is the very nature of the disaster and collapse.

I mean, it’d be one thing if it were an EMP and quite another if it is a pandemic.  With the latter, there’s a much greater risk just being in close proximity to other human beings.

It would be a good idea to give serious thought to the possibility of post-collapse visitors and how you will handle them.  It might be that you’ll have to treat as a case-by-case basis but you should still plan ahead for each likely situation.

Getting Family to “Buy In” to Prepping

With slight variations on the theme, my wife/husband/kids think I’m nuts is a very common complaint I hear.  Prepping can be difficult enough without having to deal with a lack of support from family members.  Sometimes it goes beyond a lack of support and becomes outright ridicule, right?

Does this photo remind you of the last time you talked to your spouse or significant other about prepping?

As with many family squabbles, communication is key to getting the family “buy in” with prepping.  Yes, I know, he or she just tunes you out any time you start talking about prepping.  Well, have you considered your approach to the topic?  Many preppers are very passionate about the subject.  That’s all well and good but consider things from your spouse’s point of view.  Reverse the situation and substitute a different topic for a moment.  Let’s say, for the sake of argument, your spouse is really, really, into NASCAR.  I mean the type of fan who has the T-shirts, the hats, the posters, the models, and likes to have a small dish of motor oil nearby so he can take sniffs of it and pretend he’s actually at the track.   How many times can you listen to him or her talk about the race this weekend, the rankings of the drivers, and pit times before your own eyes glaze over and you’re just nodding in what you hope are the right spots in the conversation?

I know what you’re thinking — that’s comparing apples and oranges because being a NASCAR fan is just a hobby and you’re talking about prepping, something that could actually save all your lives!  Yep, and have you ever tried telling a rabid NASCAR fan their hobby isn’t important?  Word of advice — wear a helmet.

See, part of the problem sometimes stems from being too passionate about prepping.

When you start your commentary by pointing out your belief that the government is going to try and put us all in camps or that the Yellowstone caldera is going to blow any minute now and could wipe out most of the country, well, many people are going to want to fit you for a tin foil beanie.  I’m not discounting your beliefs, just suggesting you tone it down a bit.  Instead of focusing your discussion on the remote possibilities of apocalyptic scenarios, talk about the more mundane (and far more common) local threats, such as severe weather or job loss.

For example, talk about Susie, y’know, Susie, from down the road?  Well, her husband just lost his job when the company downsized again.  They hardly have anything in savings and with their two kids, well, they are going to be hurting until he can find a new job.  She’s only working part-time and they can hardly put food on the table right now.  If only they’d been putting some food and other supplies aside, they’d have a cushion to help get them through lean times.

Another stressor is the financial side of prepping.

We all know that prepping costs money.  And it is a fact that money, or more precisely the lack thereof, is one of the most common stressors in a family.  When the reluctant spouse sees prepping just as money spiraling down the drain, it can be nearly impossible to get that buy in from them.  However, point out to him or her that by stocking up on food now, you can eat tomorrow at today’s prices.  Heck, at the rate prices seem to be going up lately, it won’t even take that long to see a good return on the investment!

Of course, you should be doing your part to limit the costs as much as possible.  Shop the sales, use coupons when they get you a better deal than store-brands, and haunt rummage sales for deals on gear and equipment you feel you need.  It is a common misconception that one needs to go out and spend thousands of dollars on pallets of freeze-dried food and cases of bottled water.  Use common sense as well as creative thinking to save pennies where you can.

Avoid looking like a hoarder.

Few people want to try and navigate around stacks of boxes just to get from the bedroom to the bathroom.  No one wants to live in a home that looks like it could be featured on Hoarders.  Keeping your preps organized not only helps you keep track of what you have and what you need, it has the added benefit of keeping the home tidy.  Plus, proper organization will allow you to find what you need when you need it.  A power outage is not a great time to try hunting through 87 different storage containers to find the batteries you know you just bought last week.

Basically, this amounts to keeping your prepping as least intrusive as possible.  Out of sight, out of mind, y’know?

The takeaway here is to remember that you know that being better prepared for whatever life tosses your way is just common sense.  By talking to your family, avoiding the conspiracy theories and end of the world predictions, and pointing out the financial gains as well as keeping things neat and tidy, you can make some great headway into getting that necessary buy in from everyone.

How Do I Get Started With Prepping?

Along with how do I find local preppers, one of the most common questions I’m asked is some variation of how do I get started with prepping.  For someone brand new to prepping, it can be very difficult to decide where to start.  There is so much to learn and to do, it can be mind boggling, not to mention stressful.  Many preppers and survivalists have been at this for years, even decades, so sometimes we might forget just how confusing it can be when you’re starting out on the disaster readiness journey.

As with any journey, you’ll never get to where you’re going unless you take those beginning few steps. 

The focus of our discussion today is on those key things you should do first.

Assemble bug out bags for each family member.  I suggest this not because I believe bugging out should be your primary emergency plan but rather because it is something you can do in an afternoon and it will give you a tremendous sense of accomplishment.  Putting together a bug out bag is a rite of passage for a prepper.  You should know going in that you will likely change the bug out bag contents repeatedly over the coming months, constantly tweaking the supply list as you learn more skills.  The point here is to focus on doing rather than just thinking about it.

Stockpile food and water sufficient for at least one full week.  Few people have the financial resources to go out and buy enough supplies to last them several months, not in one fell swoop.  Instead, start small and focus on having enough food, water, and other supplies to last you and your family a full seven days.  Create menus for each of those days, concentrating on foods that won’t require anything more involved than perhaps heating prior to consumption.  In other words, you aren’t going for gourmet cooking here but just filling bellies.  For water, a minimum of 1-2 gallons per person for each day (for a family of four, that would be 28-56 gallons total for one week).  Bottled water is just fine, as is water you store yourself in ready-made containers or in recycled soda or juice bottles.

Once you hit your initial goal of one week, extend it to two weeks, then a month, then three months.  Slow and steady, adding a little bit each week, and you’ll get there without having to endure a huge hit on the wallet.

Invest time and effort into learning new skills.  Anything you can learn that will result in a higher degree of self-confidence as well as self-sufficiency is worth your time.  These skill sets include things like wilderness survival skills, open fire cooking, home canning, amateur (ham) radio, firearms, and first aid.  While books, blogs, and Youtube are all great resources, you’ll learn best by doing these things.  You need to get off your butt and actually practice these skills, even if it is only in your backyard.  Give some thought as to which skill sets you are already somewhat familiar with and start there, branching out when you can.

Do something every single day.  It doesn’t always have to be a big thing, like reorganizing and inventorying the pantry or living out of a debris hut for the weekend.  Those things are important, yes, but so is spending thirty minutes scanning the grocery ads to determine the best buys for that week.  At the beginning of the week or month, make a list of what you want to accomplish, whether it be purchasing a set amount of supplies or learning a new skill.  Spend just a little bit of time each and every day towards accomplishing those goals.  Every little bit helps, right?

The takeaway here is this–you’re not going to get there overnight but you’ll never get there unless you take the first few steps.

[Of course, I would be remiss if I failed to mention an excellent resource for beginning preppers called Countdown to Preparedness.  That book, written by yours truly, will be coming out in about a month from Ulysses Press.  You can preorder it here on Amazon.  The cover currently shown is incorrect, though. Rather than the six weeks indicated by the cover copy, it is a full 52 week course in disaster readiness.]