People who are interested in preparedness seem to love lists. So, I have compiled a list of 30 steps that may be useful for average families who don’t necessarily have a hideout in the mountains (yet). This list is by no means all-inclusive and it presumes a basic background in preparedness. In other words, I hope you have been reading this blog for a long time already! I am a proud military wife and mother of two grade school students. I have a master’s degree in chemistry. We are just an average family trying to get by in uncertain times. I am just optimistic enough to believe that there is hope for the future and just realistic enough to prepare otherwise.
Coming from Alaska, where power outages can mean the difference between life and death at forty below zero, prepping is as mainstream as owning a TV. Geomagnetic storms knock out power regularly and a good aurora borealis may mean you better get out the generator. It is good to see the preparedness trend catching on in the Lower 48 states. Alabama recently held their first tax-free weekend from July 6-8, 2012 to purchase hurricane preparedness equipment, with tax exemptions on generators, batteries, flashlights and more. There also appears to be a massive education campaign going on throughout U.S. schools. My kids are coming home with all sorts of flyers and papers encouraging them to get their parents involved in basic preparedness for hurricanes, tornados, ice storms and more. Propaganda mission? Who cares—If we want to make preparedness the norm, then asking kids to make sure their parents have flashlights is one place to start. There is certainly an emerging capitalist market for all things survival related. Embrace it and get the goods while you can. These are the steps that have been useful to me so far, but it is a never-ending job to be prepared. Good luck.
1. Water is always number one on any survival prep list, so I have to start here. Learn the location of the nearest source of fresh water to your home and how to walk to it with filtration equipment and water containers. Not everyone lives near an Alaskan glacial stream, but it doesn’t matter if you are in inner city Philadelphia next to the Schuykill River (I’ve tried both places), it pays to know your drinking water source in case the taps run dry. Try drinking it too–AFTER boiling it for ten minutes or filtering it with a Katadyn filter or adding iodine or bleach of course. Add some Gatorade powder if you have to. If it gives you giardiasis or cholera now, at least you will be able to see a doctor now while we still have a functioning society. Then, you will definitely know that you need to work on your water purification skills.
2. Learn to grow something. Tomatoes in an upside down hanging basket, potatoes in a bucket on your rooftop, sunflowers on your back patio, or anything you can. You can do a lot with potatoes. I have grown them from sprouted organic potatoes from the supermarket. Don’t be afraid to experiment with seed saving techniques. Pumpkins and watermelons are great starting points for saving seeds. Kids can help rinse and dry those seeds easily. A great resource on seed saving that I like is the book Seed
to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth.
3. Practice outdoor cooking. We love our Volcano stove and use it for everything from S’mores to grilled salmon. You can even put a Dutch oven in it. Dutch ovens are great because you can practice using them indoors in the winter when outdoor BBQs are not as appealing. “The Scout’s Outdoor Cookbook” by Tim and Christine Conners is an invaluable guide.
3. Get off the couch and get in shape now. Walking is a great place to start. There are elderly people who walk laps around the malls of America that are in better shape than the average high school student.
4. Lose 5 pounds. Stop eating all that delicious Hershey’s chocolate and start saving it for bartering. With the price of groceries going up every day, it’s not too hard to cut back the caloric intake in an attempt to break even on food inflation.
5. Take care of your teeth now. Make an appointment to see the dentist for a cleaning and/or fillings now while you still can. Don’t be afraid to get your kids the braces they need just because the end of the world is near. There are numerous articles on this blog on how to remove orthodontics in an emergency survival situation that involve little more than a wire cutter.
6. Go to the library and check out some books. Better yet, start your own survival library. National Geographic’s “Complete Survival Manual” by Michael S. Sweeney is very useful. You can get books on everything from how to make goat cheese to how to knit socks to how to can peaches in a water bath. If the library is not your thing, go online or to Amazon Kindle or Pinterest or whatever works for you.
7. READ the books and learn a new skill, such as how to make goat cheese or how to knit socks or how to can peaches in a water bath. Read to your kids too. There are great books for kids about gardening or keeping chickens for example. One book I have found useful to get kids thinking about prepping is “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 9 year old Almonzo in 19th century upstate NY does more after school chores than you can imagine. He gets a calf yoke for a birthday present! Happy Birthday Almonzo, now go break in the calves. I haven’t heard any more complaints about taking out the trash after reading that with my kids.
8. Download the Latter Day Saints Preparedness Guide for free. The 2012 15th Anniversary Edition is available now. You will be amazed and forever grateful for this outstanding contribution to society.
9. On your next trip to the grocery store when you are stocking up on extra rice and toilet paper, don’t forget to throw in a bag or two of bird seed. I’ve been known to eat a handful of those sunflower seeds myself when I’m refilling the feeders. I’m not too sure I’d eat suet, but you never know. Just skip the millet because most birds don’t even like that and it tends to get left uneaten by even the hungriest chickadees. The corn cobs designed for squirrels are cheap and can attract all sorts of game in range of your gun or traps.
10. While you are at the store, spend some time in the drug aisle and look for things beyond the usual hand sanitizer, multi-vitamins and Band-aids that preppers stockpile. There was a sale on lice shampoo the other day and we picked some up. It even came with two nit combs, which we didn’t have on hand. We also grabbed some pinworm medicine. It seems like there are OTC meds for everything these days. Take advantage of it while you can.
11. Take a quick stop at the pet store or online and while you are getting an extra bag or two of dog or cat food, grab up some FishMox, FishFlex and Bird Sulfa. Vetdepot.com sells FishMox 250 mg, 30 tablets for $ 8.87. Yes, these are identical to human antibiotics. Ever taken amoxicillin for strep throat? In a true emergency with no hospitals, I will not hesitate to take 250 mg of Fishmox three times a day for strep throat even if it were 10 years after the expiration date. It’s best to store them in the fridge though. Just please consult one of the many useful survival preparedness antibiotic guides if you have no medical training, or better yet, get medical training now while you can.
12. Prepping supplies cost money, I know! Budget and get your financial house in order now. Get out of bad debt and don’t rack up credit card debt. If the SHTF or not, you do not want credit card debt.
13. De-clutter your life. Get and eBay account. Learn to sell stuff lying around your house. Supplement your income. It is really so easy my school age kids can do it. They are accustomed to helping me scour their drawers and toy boxes for things they no longer need. You would be absolutely amazed at the things people will buy. I have sold half-used bottles of perfume that I didn’t like. Get rid of all that useless stuff around your house to make room for more useful supplies.
14. While you are thinking about used stuff, take a trip to your local thrift shop. Do it regularly. Volunteer there if you can so you can get first dibs on incoming items. I have found some great preps at thrift shops from cast iron pans to down parkas.
15. Get organized now. With all the material stuff people deal with, it pays to stay on top of your game and be organized. My WaterBOB to fill up the bathtub with drinking water is useless in a hurricane if I can’t find it.
16. Don’t let your bug out bags sit in a corner collecting dust. Unpack and repack them regularly to stay familiar with what you have. That is an easy task for us with kids because we have to constantly re-evaluate kids’ clothing to account for their rapid growth.
17. Take a camping trip this weekend and pack nothing but your bug out bags and see how you do. Try to start a fire with that fancy flint tool you have.
18. Include kids in prepping. Start them young. I’m sure it’s not easy trying to talk to a thirteen year old plugged constantly into Facebook about potential life without power. Little kids feel more empowered and less anxious when they have confidence that they can do some useful things. Start small with where they are, and include them as much as you can. It could be as simple as making sure you have extra foods on hand that they like, such as macaroni and cheese, or it could be a more involved task like teaching them to swim. Be open with them about the reality of our times, but help build their confidence to alleviate some of their fears.
19. Invest in a good pair of hiking shoes and break them in. Don’t forget the kids. Do you really expect junior to haul water with flip flops? You get what you pay for and that goes for clothes too. You may not need a new North Face Gortex rain jacket for everyone in your family, but don’t expect to thrive in the tissue thin cotton T-shirts from Old Navy.
20. Find a good old fashioned washboard. They have been selling nice American-made ones at Columbus Washboard Company since 1895. I love this company because they send donations to our troops overseas that include a washtub, washboard and supplies. Just make sure you get stainless steel. After you buy it, make sure you stain it with several coats of waterproof stain. I’m not sure why they even sell galvanized ones (they rust) and I sure don’t know why the wood doesn’t come pre-stained, but I guess most people just buy them for decoration. Try using it in your bathtub with a bucket of water and see what a pain it is to do laundry in third world countries like Afghanistan.
21. Learn how to make a honey bucket. No, I’m not talking about a bucket of the delicious golden stuff, but that is good to have on hand also. Having lived in Alaska for many years, where many people still voluntarily live in cabins with outhouses and no running water, I learned that a honey bucket is not so sweet. In the remote Alaskan bush, people just don’t have the amenities that you know and love down in the Lower 48. In Alaska, a honey bucket is defined as a place where you go to the bathroom like a chamber pot that you fill up and then go dump. It basically consists of a 5 gallon Home Depot bucket lined with a trash bag and an adult-size potty chair insert. You don’t need to buy the fancy camp toilets that they sell at Cabela’s.
22. Practice using one weapon or help train someone in your family to use one. Have a “Take-Your-Wife-To-The-Range-Day”. Get her a pink gun if you have to: they do make them. Our daughter has a pink Ruger 10/22. There is something for everyone. Slingshots for squirrels are great for kids. Just be sure and protect their eyes and teach them basic safety rules. Don’t overlook axes and knives. I know I am preaching to the choir when I lament about how many American children have never helped butcher a chicken or a deer. Make it a point to train others if you have skills.
23. Convert some of your assets to silver and/or gold and have it on hand, not in a safe deposit box or ETF. Junk silver coins (pre-1965 quarters, dimes and half-dollars) are available for sale at such places as Northwest Territorial Mint. It is worth buying now while you can. You may experience a three month wait to receive your package since it is so popular. In this economy with the dollar’s value rapidly sinking, yesterday was the time to convert your hard earned savings to tangible assets such as silver, gold, food, ammo, medication, chainsaws, or whatever preps are on your list. The general rule of thumb in the investment portfolio brochures is that you should have at least 20% of your savings in the form of gold or silver. Just don’t stick it under the mattress. Buy yourself a good safe.
24. However worthless the dollar is, it is still good to have some cold hard cash on hand in small bills. Even nickels are worth stashing around since they are worth more in metal content than face value.
25. Get a passport for yourself and everyone in your family. If things get really bad, you can always head for New Zealand, Northwest Territory or central Patagonia with all that silver for a while.
27. A supportive community is key. Choose your allies well and always have backup plans.
28. Practice, practice, practice. Everything from cooking rice over a camp fire like they do on the Survivor television show to composting with your morning tea bags or coffee grinds.
29. Have faith in yourself and confidence in your abilities. Just don’t get overconfident. Confidence with humility is essential to a prepper’s lifestyle.
30. Pray. I’ll be praying for you all if things get as bad as some of the National Geographic Doomsday Preppers think it’s going to get. Lord have mercy on us all! Amen.