To move forward, it is best to know where you are now. After all, it is difficult to give someone directions if you don’t know where they are, right?
Your first assigned task in your journey through preparedness is to make lists of what you already have in your home or otherwise available to you. Some folks prefer to hand write such lists in a spiral notebook. Others may choose to make some sort of spreadsheet on their computer. Hell, for all I know there may be apps out there for smartphones that will do this as well.
Here are the lists I want you to make.
Food Storage: Go through every cupboard, shelf, and even your fridge and freezer. Mark down every single edible item in your home, from individual spice containers all the way through that turkey you bought on sale before Thanksgiving. Next to each item on your list, write down how old it is, estimating as needed. Be diligent in your efforts, don’t overlook anything. The idea here is, what if a disaster hit and what you have on hand is ALL the food you have for your family. No emergency runs to the grocery store, all crops you may have are pulled. Naturally, this list is sort of in flux, meaning it will change as you prepare meals and such. That’s ok, don’t worry about that angle. Just write down everything you have on hand at the time you’re making the list.
Water Storage: Next, list how much water you have stored. Include water bottles you may have scattered throughout the house and in the fridge. Find out the capacity of your water heater as well as your toilet tanks. If you have rain barrels and they are currently holding water, go ahead and add them as well. If you have water purification equipment, such as a Berkey filter or purification tablets, list them here as well.
First Aid / Medical Supplies: Adhesive bandages, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, gauze, over-the-counter meds, etc. should all go on this list. For things have have an expiration date, such as meds, jot that on your list.
Hygiene: Here, I want you to include how many rolls of TP you have, how much soap, shampoo, and other basic necessities. Sure, mankind survived centuries without deodorant but it sure is nice to have, isn’t it? Especially when you have teenage boys in the house. Don’t forget toothpaste, toothbrushes, and floss.
Tools: Forget all the battery operated or otherwise electric power tools. Just list hand tools — hammers, hand saws, screwdrivers, crowbars, that sort of stuff. Yes, duct tape is a tool and should be included. Other types of tape? Erm, not so much.
Miscellaneous: Here is where you’ll list the odds and ends. Include anything you feel will be an asset during or immediately after a disaster and that wasn’t covered previously. Things like batteries, camping equipment, propane grills, that sort of thing.
Please realize making these lists isn’t something you can accomplish in just an hour or so. Like anything else, to do the job right takes time and effort. Once these lists are complete, take a well-deserved break.
The next step is to determine the shelf lives of what you have on hand. With some foods, that’s rather easy. But, for many items it can be difficult to figure it out. And I’m not talking about the “best by” dates printed on the packages here either. I’m referring to how long the items will actually last. One great web resource for this is found on the Organize Your Life website. On this page, they’ve listed just about everything you can imagine, from foods to household cleaners. Using that website or another source of information, go back through your lists and determine as best you can when the items you currently have will no longer be viable. Obviously as you acquire more supplies, you’ll be using the current items first.
Keep these lists someplace handy as we’ll be referencing several times in the weeks to come. That’s it for this week. Be sure to come back next week for the next assignment. Until then, keep prepping!