Of all the articles that we’ve written, the one that is the most enduring favorite of our readers has been Grocery Store Prepping. It only makes sense. Most people make two or more trips to the grocery store every week. If the grocery store sells the stuff that we need and use the most, we should probably be thinking of it as our first resource for beginner preps. Once we get the basics covered, we can venture to a wilderness outdoor equipment store for the more exotic preps.
Besides grocery stores, there are other vendors in our neighborhoods that can also serve up some pretty good preps, and many of them at discounted prices. Today we’re going to focus our attention on dollar store prepping, but don’t ignore other options such as Goodwill or resale shops and the good old yard sale.
We are blessed to live in a rural area that is well serviced by a number of the large chain dollar stores, such as Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree. These stores have become our go-to places for certain items that we regularly use, and we’ve discovered that dollar store prepping can be a thrifty prepper’s best resource. These stores tend to be cut-rate general stores that stock a lot of what you need to get you through routine emergencies, such as a power outage or storm.
The impetus for this article was a one-day sale we found at our local Dollar Tree store that’s happening tomorrow. While you can save money prepping at Dollar Tree or any of the dollar stores any day of the week, you can save more money (or buy more preps for the same money) on Sunday, November 23 (2014). It’s Customer Appreciation Day at Dollar Tree and they are offering 10% off all purchases that total more than $10. That makes every item you would normally purchase for a dollar only…wait for it… 90 cents! (Yep, we can do basic math here at The Approaching Day Prepper.) To get the 10% discount, you need to print this voucher from their website and present it to the cashier.
We’ve found that the products sold at Dollar Tree are often off-brand, but off-brand doesn’t always mean inferior. Sometimes you’ll find a product by a little unknown brand that beats what you’ve been paying much more for elsewhere. Be adventurous! What the heck — it’s just a buck. But don’t be a careless shopper. Take a minute or two to read labels, making sure you’re getting what you expect. Packaging can be deceiving, so read the label to determine how many feet, ounces, or items you’re getting for your buck. Check expiration dates as well.
Here are some ideas of what you can buy at your local Dollar Tree store. (You can buy them online, too, but Customer Appreciation Day applies only to in-store purchases.)
- Bins & baskets – You’ll find a wide variety of sizes and types. You may not have an immediate use for them, but you’ll sure find one soon.
- Baggies – It’s always good to have a supply of baggies in various sizes – sandwich, freezer, snack, etc.
- Plastic wrap, aluminum foil – Watch package sizes to be sure you’re getting a good deal.
- Canning jars and lids
- Canned vegetables – Watch for expiration dates. If the dates are soon, perhaps you can use them immediately in lieu of pulling from your pantry. You’re extending the life of your pantry which is, in effect, extending your food storage.
- Boxed foods (or as we call them, “cardboard food”) – Brands may not be those you’re accustomed to, but you can find some interesting items to try, including some imported items that you’ll never find in your grocery store.
- Canned meats – We list these separately because many people forget about canned meats. They’re great prepper food. Think tuna, chicken, sardines, Vienna sausages, etc.
- Candies – This is often an overlooked item in prepping, but let’s plan for a life with treats!
- Cords, twine, rope, clothes line — I can guarantee you that in a longer-term emergency you or someone close to you won’t begin to have enough of this stuff on hand.
- Tarps, ponchos, vinyl table cloths, and shower curtains – Anything that you can use to keep things covered and dry outside.
- Glow sticks
- Duct tape
Kitchen Utensils & Supplies
- Pick up that extra can opener you should have. Look for utensils that can be used in outdoor cooking. Look for small items that can be put in your bug-out bag.
- Baking tins for making your own cleaning products. I make some of my own cleaning and health products. They often require pans and utensils and I don’t want to use the same as those I use for baking. Cupcake pans, small loaf pans and cookie sheets all come in handy.
- Grater – Both for food prep (you may not be able to use your electric food processor) and for making cleaning products.
- Wooden spoons – Can you ever have enough?
- Paper plates and plastic ware
Cleaning & Sanitation
- Soap and laundry detergent, for less than what you pay elsewhere
- Chlorine bleach (but beware that chlorine bleach doesn’t store for very long)
- Cleaning wipes / wet wipes — especially if you have young kids
- Towels & rags – I recently bought four good quality dish towels to replace the towels I put on my counter under my tea station and by our plant area. The old ones are permanently stained. I figured I could spend $4 to quit looking at the stains. If I had waited for this 10% off sale, I could have gotten them for $3.60. I might go buy more!
- Latex gloves – Both disposable and longer-use gloves.
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Lip balm
- First aid tape
- Toothpaste, toothbrushes, toothpicks
Holiday Items & Decorations – While not a prepper item, per se, I think it’s important to remember to plan for the fun events in life when setting aside items for a time when life is less comfortable than we know it.
In my previous National Preparedness Month blog, I encouraged you to review what preps you’ve made in the past year and consider strategic purchases to improve your preparedness position. Some of you know off the top of the head what your highest prepping priorities are, but for most of us, I’m guessing a more directed approach to evaluating your preps would be helpful. We’re here to help. Use the Preparedness Check and Challenge checklist below to evaluate where you are now and where you want to be.
There are more areas in which we need to prepare – communications, transportation, and medical, to name just a few. But our readers tend to be beginners in prepping, so we’ll stick with these basic topics for today’s blog.
We’re still working on every area (of course), but we’re making progress. My personal challenge for September is to complete a 3-day and a 1-month food plan with recipes. As I was writing this blog and explaining my alternate approach to evaluating my stored food, I realized that I can easily look at my pantry and evaluate if I have the necessary food to meet my immediate and short-term needs. Today, that is. That wouldn’t be the case in an emergency. You see, cooking is a weakness for me. Phil can grab ingredients and make good food. I can’t. I used to become paralyzed in video rental stores – there were just too many options. I also become paralyzed when faced with an immediate need to make food if I don’t have a plan.
So, by the end of September, I hope to have several written menus for the first three day s and first month of an emergency, and make sure that we keep all the ingredients on hand to make those meals. If we don’t have the ingredients in stock, the menu plan isn’t worth anything.
Let me urge you – spend a few minutes reading this brief checklist, then challenge yourself in one area. Set a specific goal of what you want to accomplish before the end of September (National Preparedness Month). That’s only two weeks away, so be reasonable about what you might be able to do, but don’t be too easy on yourself. The harder you work now, the easier you’ll have it when you need it.
- Recommendation: The government recommends 1 gallon per person (and pet) per day for drinking and cooking. We say more is better, but 1 gallon is a minimum place to start. Oh, and if you want to keep yourself and your things clean, plan on needing more water.
- How much water do you need/want to store:
____ (Number of people/pets) x ____ (number of days) x 1 gallon
- How much water do you have stored: ________
- What are you going to do to upgrade your water storage and/or purification capabilities?
- Recommendation: The average adult intake is about 2000 calories/day under normal conditions. In an emergency, you’re likely to be burning more calories than that, so if you can plan for 3000 calories/day, that’s a good thing.
- How much food do you want/need to store:
____ (Number of people) x ____ (number of days) x _____ (number of calories)
- How much food do you have stored: ________
- Don’t forget pets. If you have pets, how much do they eat each day? Multiply that by the number of days and you know how much pet food you need to have stored.
An Alternate Approach — Having just given you the formula, let me tell you that I don’t use the formula any more. I did at first, as I was developing my plan and understanding of long-term food storage. Now I take a different approach. I consider my preps in three stages: immediate, short-term and long-term. I approach my evaluation according to these three stages:
- Immediate: How many meals can I make with little or no preparation in the first 72 hours? My goal is 3 meals per day for 6 people. I can easily look at my pantry and determine if I am at that goal.
- Short-Term: How many meals can I make from my pantry with minimal dipping into my long-term storage food during the first month? My goal is 3 meals per day for 8 people, with some desserts added to help keep up morale. Again, I’m going to visually inspect my pantry to determine if my goal is met.
- Long-Term: How much long-term food do I have? Phil and I met our one-year plan for the two of us last year, so now we look at how many other people can we help.
- If the power grid is down, do you have the capability to cook the food you have? What key purchase would allow you to say “yes” in response to that question? Consider a propane camping stove (don’t forget to store some propane), an outdoor fire pit with grill, a rocket stove and/or a solar oven. (I have plans for a DIY solar oven that I can’t wait to try. Oh if there were just enough hours in the day!)
- Do you know how to cook the food you have with the cooking method(s) available?
- If for any reason your current shelter is no longer available, do you have a backup plan? Where will you go and how will you get there? What kind of challenges are you likely to face in getting there? What will you take with you? What do you need to be able to make the trip? How quickly can you be on the road?
- In a no-power-grid situation (whether it’s from a snow storm, a tornado, a hurricane, or a power-grid failure) do you have a plan to keep you family warm? Start with buying extra clothes and blankets. Add to it by developing an alternate heat source.
- Is your home an easy target for being broken into? What can you do to “harden” your home? (Think about things like upgrading your entry doors or planting thorny bushes under first floor windows.)
- Are you prepared to protect your family? What do you need to do to become more prepared and better trained?
- How’s your prepper notebook coming? Read more about it here. People tend to put off gathering important documents and creating a prepper notebook. If this is the one thing you do during National Preparedness Month, you will have done a good thing.
What’s your Preparedness Check and Challenge goal for this National Preparedness Month?
We’re sorry that you haven’t seen many blogs from us over the past couple of months. Well, any blogs actually. That’s because work and life has exploded for us and we’ve had to put The Approaching Day Prepper on the back shelf for a short time. But that doesn’t mean that our personal prepping efforts have stopped. We didn’t do all we would have liked, but we did more than nothing.
Perhaps your life gets crazy sometimes, too. During those times, your prepping efforts don’t need to come to a standstill. Here are some ideas for moving your prepping efforts forward when time is at a premium.
Build Prepping Into Your Everyday Shopping
- Find a sale on something that you use a lot of? Stock up. It doesn’t take any longer to buy ten of them than it does two.
- Perhaps it’s not on sale, but you can still buy two of some of the things on your shopping list – one for now and one for your storage shelves.
- Add a case of bottled water to your cart.
Shop Online – Especially for Bulk Supplies
- When placing an office supply order for our business, I add cases of toilet paper, facial tissues, and paper towels. We’ve been getting our stuff from Quill.com. (Watch for sales.) We get free shipping with two-day delivery. One day our whole front porch was filled with big boxes that weighed almost nothing! They packed one 20-pack of toilet paper in each carton. The shipping cartons are worth almost as much as their contents.
Do a Quick Project
- Rotate the batteries in your battery charger. (You are using rechargeable batteries, aren’t you?)
- Plan or prep a new storage area. We bought three new 5-shelf storage racks online a couple of months ago. We put them in a spare room on the second floor and started to move some of our food from the basement (which could flood if our sump pump failed) to the storage racks upstairs.
- Write down some “lessons learned” from this year’s gardening season. What should you do better or differently? What would you like to try next year?
- Stay up to date with a good prepper blog. www.SHTFblog.com is one of our favorites, but there are gobs of others. (Note to self: Post a blog about our favorite prepper websites.)
- Spend some time researching your next major purchase. We’re looking at wood stoves and learning more about solar energy.
- Find a new recipe for your long-term storage food and add it to your personal long-term food storage recipe book. (If you don’t have such a book, start one.)
- Squeeze in some handgun dry-fire training time.
- Practice some skills. How are you at tying knots? Or building a fire?
We all get pinched for time, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t cram some prepping tasks into a few minutes of down time. What ideas do you have? Drop us a note in the Comments section below.
As we step into 2014, what are you thinking about prepping? How are you thinking about prepping? It seems a great time for each of us to review how we approach the world differently because of our preparedness mindset.
Awareness means different things depending on where you are on the prepping continuum. For beginners, it means becoming aware of the need to prep. It’s that first knock on the door of your consciousness that gets your attention. When you open the door, it says “Hey, things might not always be as they are now. What do you need to do to get ready?” If you haven’t reached awareness yet, check out our Why Prep page – you’ll find a compilation of our blogs on that subject. If you’ve just reached awareness and are wondering where to begin, check out our blog Getting Started with Prepping – How Do I Begin?
For more experienced preppers, awareness goes beyond the initial insight of the general need to prepare for a game-changing event. Awareness becomes being vigilant – always alert to what’s going on around you locally, nationally, and globally. It means monitoring shifts in political, economic, social, and environmental conditions. As preppers, we learn to be observant in every situation, thinking ahead to how we might need to adapt to new realities.
Having come to an understanding that the world is in fact changing – that it will not go on the same as it is right now and may become a more challenging place to live – we’ve decided that we will take steps today that will position us to survive – even thrive – in a new and less friendly environment. We’re deciding today that we won’t be victims – people who need to be rescued by someone else. And I hope you’re like me and not planning on just being a “sole survivor,” but also being one who helps others survive as well.
Preppers plan for the future. We live today as if tomorrow may be different. There are two parts to that sentence.
- “We live today…” – Our approach to prepping isn’t so future-focused that we fail to live for today. Enjoy the day! Don’t miss it. Don’t race ahead of today. God has given it to you and put things into it for your pleasure. Don’t let them go by without appreciating them.
- “…as if tomorrow may be different” – While enjoying the blessings of today, we are also gathering things and learning skills we might need in that different world. That means planning how we use our time and finances for future benefit. It means being proactive instead of just reactive. It means living intentionally.
No one can be prepared for everything, but we can all do something today that will make us better prepared for tomorrow. Our goal is to take measures to ensure that not only are we are able to survive, but we can also help others in an emergency. So we live our lives differently from those who haven’t yet become aware. We buy and store water, food and other necessities. We intentionally buy things we might never use in our everyday lives (our manually-operated grain mill comes to mind – will I ever use it to grind wheat if nothing happens? I don’t think so). We determine to learn skills we don’t absolutely require for survival today, but which might become indispensable in the days to come. (We took up raised-bed gardening, not because we were looking for an excuse to do more yard work, but because it’s part of our prepping. Canning comes next.)
So as preppers, we live aware that tomorrow may be different from today, determined to live as well as we can in that day and ready for whatever that tomorrow looks like. That sounds wise to me. That’s a lifestyle I can be happy with today and tomorrow.
I’m aware, though, that I often get distracted by bright shiny objects – whatever new and interesting thing crosses my path in a given day or week. To help keep ourselves on track, we’re preparing a 2014 Prepper’s Calendar. Watch for it early next week.
When the world changes, one of the most significant things that could happen is that your computer will no longer work and/or you will no longer have access to the internet. For many, many people (me included) this will be a huge lifestyle change. My life is stored on my computer, and over the past year there have probably been less than a handful of days when I haven’t accessed the internet. That includes vacations. On most days, I access the internet many, many times.
I suppose I should be more clear here — any and all digital devices may not work. I’m not just talking about your desktop or your laptop, I’m also talking about your tablet, your iPad and your smart phone. By the way, if none of those things work, it’s also likely that your car, your clocks, cable or satellite TV, your ebook reader, and all other electronic devices won’t work either.
So start your prepping efforts by committing to maintaining some manual records.
Start a notebook. Keep your most critical information in it. Yes, it’s important to learn the necessary skills and practice using them…but my guess is that you live in the same world as me — a busy, busy, busy one. I don’t have time to learn all the skills I want to learn, let alone practice them regularly. And things we don’t practice we don’t remember. Repetition is the key to learning. And when we’re under stress, we remember even less. So start a notebook.
Going Back to Pencil & Paper
OK, not really, but it will feel like it. Your goal is to have a notebook that reasonably mirrors your electronic records. The key word there is reasonably. We don’t want you killing tree every time you make a minor update to your digital records. But it does make sense to print out information periodically or when you make significant changes to them. So buy a notebook, fill it with useful information and commit to keeping it reasonably up to date. (Our guess is that once started, your notebook will blossom to a series of notebooks or even a whole drawer in your filing cabinet.)
What You’ll Need:
- A 3″ 3-ring binder or a series of smaller binders. I personally prefer multiple smaller binders.
- A set of dividers
- Clear plastic sheet protectors
- A little time to get started – an hour will give you a good start, two will get you further.
- Our Table of Contents can be downloaded here.
Contents of Your Notebook
Your notebook should include information about the preparations you’ve made as well as instructions that will help you live in a world that has drastically changed. For example, having a wonderful pantry of dehydrated food stored won’t be very helpful if you don’t know how to cook with it. You’ll want to include recipes for cooking with your dehydrated food. Imagine that the world of googling is gone. What information do you still want at your fingertips?
Everyone’s notebook will be different just as each of us has different books on our bookshelves. Here are the contents we recommend for getting started:
Personal Information – This section will hold personal identification that you don’t carry every day as well as financial and key contact information. Be sure to include:
- Things like birth certificates and passports here or include a note here about where you keep them. (We keep those things in what we call our “Grab-N-Go” (GNG) folder, so our notebook only reminds us where the GNG folder is.)
- A copy of the most significant documents for everyone in your family – driver’s license, social security card, other licenses that may be applicable (for example, a concealed carry license, a medical license, etc.)
- A list of all bank accounts and credit cards.
- Insurance information
- Key contact phone numbers and addresses (we include emails because you never know when you might get short-term access to the internet from a location or program that doesn’t have access to your contacts info.)
- In this area, you might want a separate sheet of paper for each person in your family. Include the following information:
- A list of the prescription drugs taken regularly.
- Dietary restrictions, if any.
- Nutrition supplements taken regularly.
- A copy of their living will and/or healthcare power of attorney (or a note about where it’s kept). This could help you avoid very difficult situations in an emergency.
- Basic first aid instructions or a reference where to find the information (such as the “Boy Scout Handbook” you have on your bookshelf”).
Food Preps – Be sure to include:
- A list of the food you have stored. You’ll want to maintain a record of the long-term storage food purchases you make. Most people will keep those records on their computer. Periodically or when you make major purchases, simply print out a new summary for your notebook.
- Recipes for using your long term storage food unless you’re familiar with cooking with the food you’ve stored. Even if you know how to cook with your food without recipes, having them in the notebook could be a big help because in a disaster you may not be available to do the cooking. You may be injured or stuck in some other location. Do those left at home a favor by having recipes that will help them use the food you’ve stored.
- Gardening/farming helps. We’ve started gardening, but we don’t yet know when is the best time to plant each item in our garden or how long we can expect before harvesting. If you’ve stored heritage seeds, you can include their location.
Prepper How To’s – There are so many things you’ll want to know how to do if the world ceases to exist as it is today. For example, if we lose gas and/or electricity for an extended period of time, I’m going to want to know how to build a rocket stove since I haven’t made one yet. I also want to build a solar oven but haven’t done it yet. Those instructions go in the How To’s section. You might also want to include recipes for things you typically buy but may need to make in a disaster (such as soap, candles, etc.). This section could get really blown out and may become several notebooks of their own, but start with just one section in your first notebook.
Resources – This section answers the question “What people or organizations or places might provide me with what I can’t provide myself during an emergency?” Your needs might be for locally grown food, water, people willing to barter, medical attention, or any of a number of other things. These may be people and organizations you can easily name off the top of your head today. In an emergency you may be rattled. The notebook becomes your brain’s assistant. Here’s the lists we suggest you start with:
- List of people with skills you may need in an emergency. Include contact information.
- List of key websites you can access for information or help. If you have internet access you don’t want to waste precious time, power or accessibility doing google searches for that site you always visited for info.
- List of key local and national organizations and contact information.
- List of people with whom you can barter for needed supplies or services.
- List of local resources such as natural springs or farms.
Just Get It Started!
Don’t wait until you have everything you need for your notebook, just get it started. Once it’s started, you can add to it, delete from it, etc. For example, in the recipes section, just put the first 5 recipes you find into your notebook. Don’t wait until you’ve evaluated them or you may never get them into your notebook. I’ve spent too long saying “Well, I don’t want to put the recipe in my notebook until I’ve tried it.” That’s foolish thinking. Just put it in. When you get around to trying it, you can always change or delete it. But if a disaster occurs before then, you’ll have something in your notebook!
Download our Prepper Notebook Table of Contents here. It will help you get started. We’ve provided it as both a PDF and a customizable Word file.
This is not something you create and then put in a drawer. It is a living, breathing document. Update it often.
EDIT: This bundle is no longer available. It was a great deal, but the consortium of prepper authors who put this together were true to their word about this being a very limited time offer. They’re talking about some other products in the future. We’ll let you know of any worthwhile specials that we find.
We don’t do a lot of selling on this site. That’s not what we’re about. The purpose of this site is this:
- To inform people of the potential dangers we all face in these unstable days we live in
- To motivate people to take steps to prepare themselves for an emergency
- To educate people about what they can do to make those preparations
But sometimes the best way to accomplish one or more of those goals is to recommend a product. This is one of those times.
A group of preparedness authors have banded together to offer a package deal of their books and instructional materials at a discount so deep it’s too good to pass up. It’s only $29, but that price is only good until this coming Monday (September 23, 2013). I don’t know what the price will jump to then, but it is an absolute steal at this introductory price of $29. They say the retail value of the package is $700. I haven’t done the math, but a cursory glance at the wealth of materials will confirm that they’re darned close. I bought one for myself right away. It was a no-brainer. I got enough stuff in this bundle to keep me learning and prepping through the cold winter months to come.
The Ultimate Survival Bundle is a collection of downloadable books, videos, and audio presentations that covers most of the critical areas of emergency preparedness or survival. Included in the package are a couple of books that give a comprehensive treatment of preparedness and it is well worth the bundle price of $29 just to get those two books. They are Making the Best of Basics (edition 12.5) by James “Doctor Prepper” Stevens, which sells on Amazon for $28.99 (one cent less than this entire bundle); and The Untrained Housewife’s Guide to Getting Prepared (also sold on Amazon).
Topics covered by resources in the Ultimate Survival Bundle include food storage, gardening, alternative energy, security, homesteading, medical preparedness, raising animals, and ethical issues. A total of 46 resources from 36 different authors. Some are very broad while others are highly specialized. Here are some examples:
- A 150-page book on dehydrating food, written by the author of a book on the same topic for the “Complete Idiot’s Guide” series that you’ve seen in bookstores
- A 101-page guide to herbal medicines, which sells for $29.67 on Amazon (I’ve looked up all of these Amazon prices myself to get a sense of the value of this package)
- A 266-page book about wind power from a consumer’s point of view
- A 106-page book on “apartment gardening” – growing your own food in limited spaces
- A book on solar energy that sells for $19 on Amazon
- A 40-page booklet on how to build a fire
- A 228-page book on raising goats
- A 62-page book on building and living in a yurt (after browsing this bad boy I am really wanting to get me a yurt!)
Click on this link to go to a page that gives details about all of the many products included in this package.
Besides books, there are also a few videos that you can download. Two of them are instructions on how to build a greenhouse, companion videos to a book on that topic that is also a part of the package. These video files are very large and will take a while to download. One is two hours long (2 gigabyte file size) and the second in a little over an hour long (1 gigabyte). Another video is a half-hour presentation on hand-to-hand self-defense techniques.
I could go on, but I’m going to try to contain my enthusiasm. The bottom line is that if there’s not something in the Ultimate Survival Bundle that gets your juices flowing, you’re not a prepper. At $29, this is one of the biggest bangs for the buck that I’ve encountered in a very long time. I can blow that much on pizza in a week. This is a deal that will give me something to chew on for much longer than that. When you’re ready to order, click here. Get it while you can get it cheap.
Grief counselors often talk about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Sounds like grief beats you into submission. What a buzzkill.
My experience with prepping suggests that there are predictable stages in the life of a prepper, too:
First is ignorance. There is trouble brewing all around us, threatening our security and our way of life, but in this stage we’re blissfully oblivious to the potential dangers and what we should be doing about them.
The second stage is awareness. It can creep up gradually or come upon us like a flood, but at some point we come to the awareness of the threats all around us, whether they be personal, national, global, environmental, political, economic, or all of the above. Awareness is a good thing, but when it comes, it can scare the crap out of you.
This leads to stage three. There are a number of different responses to awareness. The big three are denial (this could never really happen; our government will rescue us), fatalism (oh well, whatever will be will be; there’s nothing I can do about it), or action. The first two of these responses don’t lead to prepping. Quite the opposite. They lead to intentional unpreparedness, working under the belief (or wishful thinking) that IF anything bad were to actually happen, someone else would step in and take care of you. As if living in a FEMA camp for months is an appealing solution.
So for those who have become preppers, the only choice in stage three is to begin to take action. What actions are taken and to what degree they are pursued will be different from one person to another, based largely on what their starting point is. We all have a unique set of experiences, skills, knowledge, and motivation that defines our starting point. For those who have been blessed to grow up on a farm with lots of land for growing crops and raising animals, there won’t be much of a learning curve. They’ve grown up in a culture of self-sufficiency and sustainability.
At the other end of the spectrum is me: a die-hard, convenience-loving, city kid who doesn’t know which end of a hammer you’re supposed to hold on to. Folks like me have a hard row to hoe when it comes to prepping. I’ve come to awareness, but part of that awareness is an evaluation of how deep a hole I have to climb out of to become prepared to ride out an extended emergency. This blog is aimed at people like me, those who are total greenhorns in most of the areas necessary to becoming prepared. Folks who need someone who’s a step or two ahead of them in preparedness to help them get started.
So what does the action phase look like in the newly minted prepper? For the more self-sufficient ones it’s a matter of filling in the gaps in their already significantly prepared lifestyle. But for folks like me, it can be overwhelming. Now I have a couple of things going for me. I have the ability to see the Big Picture, I’m a life-long learner, and I’ve been blessed with a wife who has worked as a project management consultant to some of the largest companies in America. So while being overwhelmed was my immediate reaction to awareness, it soon became an exhilarating journey of discovery – boldly going where I had never gone before. I developed a burning interest in things that have never so much as been a blip on my radar before. I’m interested in solar power and gardening and self defense and ham radio and a whole lot more. Still overwhelming? Sure, but often it’s overwhelming with things that I want to do, not that I have to do. Having an interest and a purpose takes the drudgery out of work.
I admit that I’m still often overwhelmed when I get into a new aspect of prepping. What do I really need? How do I begin? What should my highest priorities be? When you find yourself in this situation, break your action into categories. You can use our “Prepper Topics” menu as a guide. Then, identify tasks in each area that represent your next steps and prioritize them. (That’s what my project managing wife helps me do.)
In the weeks and months to come, we want to help you map out your specific plan for preparedness as well. In addition to providing tools like checklists and baby step recommendations that will get you headed in the right direction, we’ll be starting an email prepper school. (We’re working on a catchy name for it – got any ideas?) The weekly email-subscription will help you focus on one prepper task each week that will move you toward your goal of becoming more prepared for an emergency.
We do a lot of reading and research here. It’s what I like to do. I might not be able to fix a broken tractor (yet), but I’ve been given the ability to absorb a lot of information and pass it on to others. This site exists first of all to sound the alarm of the potential threats that surround us, but most importantly to offer hope to those who might become overwhelmed or lost in the sea of details. Who among us is as fully prepared as they would like to be? I’m guessing none. But we can all take some kind of steps to become a little more prepared than we are right now. Let us know what your challenges are and we will strive to provide our best guidance in those areas.
We’re all in this together. Let’s commit to becoming a community of foresight, hope, and readiness.
Getting started with prepping can be overwhelming. Once the need to prep took root within my mind, I started to realize just how poorly prepared I was. Questions popped up like mad:
- What kind of calamity am I prepping for?
- What do I need?
- How much do I need?
- What do I need to buy first?
It’s enough to drive you (and everyone around you) totally nuts. So let’s keep calm, take a deep breath, and take a couple of baby steps toward preparedness.
Laying the Foundation
Some people try to prep themselves to survive global thermonuclear war before they’re even ready to make it through something as simple as a short-term power outage. The most common emergency situations are relatively minor ones, so we’re going to start small.
One of the most typical household emergencies is a power outage. Your electricity could go off for a couple of days because of a storm or a transformer malfunctioning or any of a number of reasons. A short-term power outage isn’t really a big deal, but if you’re not prepared for it, it can cause a significant disruption in your life.
I can deal with sitting in the dark with no TV, but when the electricity is off, my furnace doesn’t work. Until I save five grand to buy that wood-burning stove I’ve got my eye on, I’m going to need to resort to more basic means of staying warm. Got an electric stove? You’re screwed there, too. Electric stoves and microwave ovens are no good in a power outage, so you’ll need a way of heating water and cooking food. And because people are much more likely to hurt themselves in the dark, you’ll need some first aid supplies, too. You get the idea.
The 72-Hour Emergency Kit
Sandy recently wrote about the need for a variety of “Grab-and-Go” bags to help you bug-out in a jiffy with the assurance that you have everything that you’ll need. One such grab-and-go bag is the 72-hour emergency kit. This is an essential, whether you are bugging-out or staying put. You should have a 72-hour emergency kit for every person in your household. They should be stored in a safe and accessible location (like all of your grab-and-go bags), and you should know how to use every item in the kit — before you need to use it. Having all of these products together in one place in kit form prevents you from scrambling all over the house in the dark, assembling bits and pieces after the emergency has already occurred.
Click here to go see an assortment of kits sold by Emergency Essentials (one of my favorite prepper resource vendors).
At the time of this writing, Emergency Essentials sells four different grades of 72-hour emergency kits. The most basic is just called an emergency kit, but the better-equipped models have brand names like Trekker™, ReadyWise™, and Comp™. The one that I think gives the most bang for the buck is the ReadyWise™. Let’s take a look at some of the things the ReadyWise comes with.
First, you’ll find food in the form of a few MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and a high-calorie food bar. You can eat MREs as-is, but keeping up your morale is important in an emergency, so they also provide MRE heaters and some hard candy. (Apparently, eating cold MREs makes some people cranky.) Next comes water. Besides providing packages of water, Emergency Essentials includes a water bottle and some water purification tablets. Getting cold? To help you stay warm, the kit comes with a wool blanket, hand and body warmers, a poncho, an emergency sleeping bag, and a tube tent. For lighting, they give you a hand-crank powered flashlight that can also recharge your cell phone, a light stick, and a 100-hour candle. To let you know what’s going on in the world, they include a battery-operated radio (and yes, batteries ARE included, but you need to make sure to keep fresh ones in stock just in case). There’s also an assortment of first aid and personal hygiene supplies. All of this comes bundled in a lightweight backpack for easy portability in case you have to bug out and drag it all with you.
Can You Top This?
I think that’s a pretty darned good 72-hour emergency kit at a very reasonable price. Could you do better buying separate components on your own? That depends on what you mean by “better.”
I’m sure that you could find a better radio (maybe one that is powered from both a hand crank and a solar cell, instead of batteries). And a “real” sleeping bag would be better than the emergency one that they put in this kit — but that one item could be as big and heavy as this entire kit, so there are trade-offs to trading up. I’m dead certain that the multifunction tool included in the kit isn’t the best one on the market, but buying a high-end multifunction tool will cost you more than this entire kit. Do you really need a really good multifunction tool? Yes, in the long run I believe that you do. But do you really need a really good multifunction tool for a 72-hour emergency kit? Nope. That’s overkill. Sometimes “good enough” is good enough.
Looking at ways to improve upon Emergency Essentials’ ReadyWise emergency kit is a good lesson in prepper priorities. You could buy this affordable, quick-and-dirty kit that is very appropriate for the purpose it was created for. Or you could assemble your own kit of higher quality components. Or you could buy this kit as a starting point and supplement it with a couple of better-quality pieces here and there. The choice is yours. But I urge you to do something. Don’t be caught walking around with a head full of stuff that you know that you need to do, but none of it actually accomplished. A 72-hour emergency kit is one of the basic Grab-and-Go bags that every household needs, and it’s a quick and easy baby step toward greater preparedness for any situation.
Yes, it’s possible to put together a better emergency kit than this one, but you’ll be doing a lot of shopping and you’ll spend more money. If you’re the kind of person who likes one-stop shopping, this is kit from Emergency Essentials is a good solution for you, and a good starting point for your preps.
A relatively easy first step in prepping is to create what we call Grab-N-Go (GNG) bags.
Here’s a question for you: How quickly could you evacuate if you got the order to do so?
Sure, you could run out of your house, maybe grabbing your wallet or purse on the way out, and be out of there in 2 or 3 minutes. But would you have everything you needed when you got to wherever you are going? With a little preparation, you can be out of the house just as quickly with items that will make your life easier when you get to your destination.
The recent explosion in West, Texas is a perfect example of an unexpected need for GNG bags. Your GNG bags will be comprised of a number of bags in which you have items you want to take with you in an emergency. When given an evacuation order, you simply grab the appropriate GNG bags and head out the door.
Begin by asking yourself “If I were told to evacuate immediately, what would I want to take with me?” Think through various scenarios and you’ll begin to identify more than first comes to mind.
We found that as we did that exercise, there were “groupings” of items that we opted to pack in separate GNG bags, which prompted the next question: “How would I want to carry these things?” We ended up creating a “master” GNG Folder (more on that below) and a number of other GNG bags.
Contents of a GNG Folder
Our GNG Folder holds the cash we think we might need as well as paperwork. Here are things you might want to put in your GNG Folder. Include in your folder the things appropriate to your life.
- Cash – as much as you are comfortable taking (and probably a little more) in various denominations. Include lots of small bills. If you end up staying at a luxury hotel and have to pay for it in five’s, that’s OK. Better than needing $3 worth of something and having to pay $50 for it. We have our cash in an envelope in our GNG Folder
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage License
- Military DD214 (Certificate of Discharge)
- VA Certificate of Eligibility
- Social Security Card
- Important phone numbers – family members, close friends, etc. Remember, your electronics may not work after a short period of time.
- Insurance information – account/policy numbers, contact info
- Maps of your area and the area(s) you anticipate you might be headed – Again, your GPS may not be working.
- Instruction sheet – This page lists the various GNG bags we have and where they’re kept, a brief summary of what’s in each, and where each is kept! The purpose for this is to keep me from having to think and move quickly at the same time. I want to avoid thinking in an emergency.
Overview of Other Potential GNG Bags
Our approach to GNG bags allows us to grab whatever bags we think might be needed should we have to evacuate in a hurry. In addition to the GNG folder, you might want to create the following GNG bags:
- Personal safety bag of firearms and ammunition
- Food and water bags
- Electronics bags
- Survival gear bag
- First aid kit
- Clothing and personal care items
- Tool kit
The temptation is to take everything including the kitchen sink. Resist it! Each bag should be easily grabbed and thrown in the car – that means nothing heavy or awkward. You don’t want to take as many clothes as you’d take for a week’s vacation, for example. Notice that there are no keepsakes on the list. Think back to those old movies of people crossing the frontier. They started in wagons weighed down with precious belongings. Most of those belongings had been dropped along the trail to lighten the load. Lighten your load before you leave.
It’s probably not practical or safe to keep all these bags in the same place, but keep them in logical places, and don’t move them! And don’t forget to note the location of each bag on your instruction sheet. Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible to get out of the house as fast as possible.
Creating your GNG bags now will serve you well in life, even if you never get the evacuation call. For example, our master GNG folder now holds all my important papers in one place. Need to grab my passports for a trip? Easy-peasy. Need my birth certificate? Easy-peasy. I didn’t used to be so organized with these things. I love this new organization. But it goes further than that. Get a phone call in the middle of the night with news that my mom has been hospitalized? I have the assurance that I always have some cash on hand (just go to my GNG folder) and I have a small suitcase of clothes packed. It means I leave the house prepared to spend a day or two away from home (or three or four if needed). (Don’t forget to replace the cash and repack your clothes after your emergency use.)
And the super-extra double duty that your GNG bags perform – giving you peace of mind. POM is a wonderful thing and just spending a little time and little or no money to get it is even more wonderful. Thank You, Lord!
Take Action! Build Your Bags Now!
Creating your Grab-N-Go bags is pretty easy. It doesn’t take long and doesn’t cost a lot of money (unless you want it to, of course). So here’s your assignment for today:
- Take 15 minutes to make a list of the GNG bags you think you need.
- List them in order of priority for you. I recommend putting your GNG folder at the top of the list because it’s easy and it holds that instructions list identifying your other GNG bags.
- Decide when you’re going to work on creating your #1 priority GNG bag/folder. Put it in your calendar!
When you reach that appointment time in your calendar, spend the first few minutes making a list of what’s going to be in your #1 priority GNG bag/folder. Then begin assembling it. When you finish, make an appointment in your calendar to work on your next priority GNG bag.
Oh – and enjoy the peace of mind!
Preparing for a time when life is no longer as convenient and food is no longer as available as it is today can be quite overwhelming. We’re here to help! You’ll find information on a wide range of topics on this site. But where do you begin? Getting started with prepping is challenging because there are so many areas to evaluate and take action in. This article provides a logical approach to prepping by linking to “the basics” posts.
Prepper Tip: Don’t get overwhelmed, don’t get discouraged, and don’t get anxious. What’s the answer to the age old question “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time, my friend, one bite at a time. That’s how you approach prepping.
Take a deep breath and then dive in. If you’re just getting started in prepping, start at the beginning and move through to the end.
By the way…We’re still working on this page, so not all links are active. We’re confident you’ll find lots of useful info here so we wanted to make it available while we’re working on it.
- Approaches – This blog introduces the different types of food that can be stored and provides the best place to start.
- Personal Defense
- Home Security
Shelter & Energy
- Shelter (Bugging Out or Bugging In – and preparations for each)
Sanitation & Medical