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Planning


The question “what are you prepping for” has just about been worn out. There is no shortage of threats in our world to be concerned about and to take steps to prepare for. Take your pick. My pet threat is economic collapse. Yours might be a nationwide power grid failure or terrorists with suitcase bombs attacking several American cities simultaneously. All of these are valid threats. I’ve joined the growing rank of people who have decided to not be caught by surprise, but rather to be as well prepared as possible if any such disaster should strike. Since you’re reading this, you’re probably in that camp, too.

But one question that doesn’t get asked very often is whether the thing that you’re prepping for is an event or a process. What do I mean by that? And why would it matter?

SHTF Event

An event would be a sudden occurrence, like an earthquake on the San Andreas Fault that causes a significant part of California to go bye-bye. Or an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), either solar or nuclear, that wipes out all of our electronics. Everything is fine one moment, then in an instant it’s not.

What would be the results of an SHTF event? There would be a significant loss of lives, followed by widespread shock and panic. Supplies and services would be disrupted for a long time, perhaps for a very long time. Panic buying would empty store shelves in a matter of a few days. Multitudes would be unemployed. No amount of government intervention would make a dent in the level of catastrophe affecting our world. Virtually every aspect of our lives would change from anything we had ever known before. Ready or not, everyone would be thrust into full-scale survival mode.

Spices02If an SHTF event occurs, you’re stuck with what you have. If you don’t already have it, you’re not going to be able to get it. If you’ve planned to buy a good multi-fuel rocket stove, you’re too late. You won’t be able to get one anywhere now. Still working towards acquiring a top-notch first aid kit? Kiss that plan goodbye. You’ve probably got a good supply of rice and beans and wheat on hand, but have you also stocked the spices and seasonings that you’ll need to make it taste good? That ship has sailed.

There are a lot of SHTF event scenarios that have a chance of occurring in our lifetime. That’s why we prep. But the bottom line for an SHTF event is that prepping time is over and implementation time has begun. If you don’t already have it when an SHTF event occurs, you’re not likely to ever get it from that point on. The key to making it through an SHTF event is to already have the things you want and need.

SHTF Process

It’s possible that the world won’t go out with a bang (event) so much as a whimper (process). A global financial collapse may have begun 15 years ago with the tech bubble and crash of 2000. While it appears that our economy plateaus or even rallies for a short time since then, it seems to me like we’ve been on a trajectory of steady economic decline ever since 2000. The years 2001 and 2008 saw the greatest losses in stock market history. Much has been written about this 7-year cycle, with warnings of a bigger crash to come in 2015.

An SHTF process wouldn’t come about suddenly like an event would. Instead, it would take years or decades to play out — a slow, steady decline. Money gets tighter gradually. There may be a series of bubbles that burst, but we ride them out. Businesses adapt by running “leaner,” squeezing more productivity out of fewer employees. Families adjust by taking fewer vacations. Many people are out of work, and those who have jobs have been cut to part-time so employers don’t have to pay for the benefits that full-time workers get. First and second-world countries start looking more and more like third-world countries. We find ourselves like a frog in a beaker of water on a bunsen burner. The heat gets turned up so gradually that the frog doesn’t react to the changes — and then he finds himself thoroughly cooked.

Unlike an event, an SHTF process could give you years and years of opportunity to stockpile the things you want and need. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if (when) you find yourself out of work, instead of adding to your supplies, you start tapping into your preps to get by until the next job comes along. But it doesn’t. And what you can’t eat you sell in order to get money to meet your family’s needs.

An SHTF process is not a pretty picture. Slow death never is. Yes, you are better equipped to deal with the problem than those who don’t prep, but it just delays the inevitable.

So what is the key to surviving an SHTF process? Sustainability. You will need self-reliance skills, the kind of mojo that the pioneers had 150 years ago. Do you know how to grow and preserve food? Raise animals? Use and repair tools? Prepping isn’t just about storing stuff. The best preppers would say that it isn’t even primarily about stuff. It’s about skills.

Which one will it be?

Of course, your guess is as good as mine. Sandy and I lean toward process but we are strongly aware that it could be an event and that event could occur tomorrow. We don’t let that worry us. Rather, we do what we can while trusting the Lord for what we can’t. At the beginning of each year we look at where we are, re-consider where we want to be and set priorities for the year. Yep, that’s what we’ll be doing in the coming week.

Comment below or on Facebook to let us know whether you think SHTF will be an event or a process.

Whatever your SHTF scenario, make the most of your time by getting (right now) the top priority items that you need to ride it out, and continually work on building the skill sets that you will need to sustain yourself and your loved ones through tough times ahead. You’ll find links to our favorite suppliers in the sidebars. (Yes, we make a small commission from the sales that are generated from this site. Thanks for supporting TheApproachingDayPrepper.com.)

I apologize for this posting being such a buzz kill. I hope you all have an exceedingly blessed, healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year, and that next year finds you in a better place than you are right now.

Prepping for Holidays in a CanWe want to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas. We pray that you will find the joy in the season – knowing Christ and being known by Him.

Being in the holiday spirit reminds me how important celebrations and traditions can be. Even those who adamantly declare that they avoid traditions are, in effect, implementing them – that is, their avoidance of tradition is, in fact, their tradition. I know, it sounds strange, but it’s true.

Traditions ground us they define who we are and connect us to community. The community may be present or may be miles away, and it may be large or small. Growing up, we always baked Christmas cookies the day after Thanksgiving. Now as an adult, when I bake cookies on that day – even if I am baking alone – I feel connected to those I baked with, and even the people  they baked with before I was born.

Traditions can be reassuring and calming. When the world changes dramatically, I can’t think of anything we’ll need more! What a better way to prepare for such a time, than to create “Holidays in a Can.” Or a six-gallon pail. Phil describes the contents of holiday cans as “the saved of the saved.” In other words, we’re prepping for the holidays, not just for survival. We’re purposefully storing special food and other items with our preps that we won’t touch until the holiday comes around so that our holiday will be special even when times are tough.

What holidays should you plan for? Any days that are special to you – birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve or Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Independence Day come to mind. In our house, only a few of those are important days – you identify the ones that are important to you. (Phil is a peculiar fan of Groundhog Day. Go figure.)

What should be in the holiday cans? Now there’s a question that will have a unique answer for each of us. Ask yourself this:

What makes the holiday special to me and my family? Is it smells or activities or sights or sounds?

Your answer to that question will help you identify what should go into your can. Here are some ideas.

  • A card (birthday, anniversary, etc.)
  • A decoration or two
  • Ingredients for a prepper version of a favorite or special food (or just include a fruitcake!)
  • A gift – something special to share with others
  • Something frivolous or fancy
  • Something that evokes memories of the holiday – perhaps a picture or ornament or piece of clothing (an ugly Christmas sweater comes to mind)
  • Candles. Fancy ones since you might be using candles more in TEOTWAWKI and we want the can to hold special things. Don’t forget birthday candles if it’s a birthday can – and if you’re one of those people who always puts trick candles on the cake, be sure to include them.)
  • Spray scent (I hate it, but if I was desperate, I might really enjoy the Christmas feel of it – or it might just remind me of why I always hated it – which is a part of Christmas, too!)
  • Photos
  • A game
  • A special drink (every year at Christmas I have a glass of Crown Royale because it’s what my dad gave me for Christmas every year)

The key is to pare the items down to just a few that will bring the essence of your holiday into a time of crisis.

The Alternative Holiday Can

Having written all that I just did about the importance of traditions – and believing every word of it – I’ve also experienced times when it was important to break with tradition to make the holiday livable. For example, the year Phil’s mom died I specifically planned a non-traditional Christmas for us. I knew that the holiday memories would be too difficult the first year, so instead of focusing on the holiday, we remodeled our living room and dining room over Christmas week. Yes, we took a short break to join family for dinner, but then we returned home to finish painting.

So another approach to your holiday cans (or perhaps just some of them) is an alternative holiday can. Instead of filling it with things that remind you of former holidays, use it as a starting place for igniting new traditions or simply having a fun day. Here are some ideas:

  • A new game
  • Supplies to make a new scrapbook or cards
  • Treat food that isn’t reminiscent of your holidays. I’m loving Auguson Farms Blueberry Muffins these days. A couple batches of that in my birthday can would be a new tradition I’d enjoy!
  • An IOU for a day of rest and pampering – in whatever form that would take in TEOTWAWKI. Massage oils would probably have a very long shelf life.
  • A letter that you write now that would still be applicable then
  • One thing that reminds you of and connects you with the traditional holiday. Just a small thing. Don’t make it the centerpiece of the can.

Remember, your holidays in cans are the “saved of the saved.” They’re in the secret vault not to be opened until the holiday arrives. That’s what holiday prepping is all about.

What are your ideas? How are you including the holidays in your prepping? Comment below or add your comments on Facebook.

And again, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year.

Augason Farms One-Month Food KitDuring National Survival Month, we encouraged readers to identify a task they hoped to accomplish. We were slammed with work that month and getting ready for vacation, so I picked an easy task that had been on my list – create a menu to be used during the first month of a serious emergency and gather the needed recipes.

As I began the menu project, Phil reminded me that we had purchased a one-month food supply kit from Augason Farms. This kit contained 48 small cans of dehydrated and freeze dried ingredients and came with a recipe booklet with more than 50 recipes. Wow! Menu task accomplished! Well, not quite. But close.

From that easily accomplished goal we decided that after returning from vacation we’d set aside a week during which we would make some of the recipes and get a more realistic idea of what it would be like to live off of our long-term storage food supply.

Our original plan was to eat nothing but food from our long-term food storage, with a focus on the Augason Farms kit. After putting off our one week of survival food experiment several times, we realized that our original plan needed some tweaking. We realized that maintaining our normal schedule of work and ministry activities meant that it wasn’t practical for us to only eat survival food for that week. In an emergency, these commitments would be radically altered. We weren’t willing to make those adjustments for our experiment. Still, we were able to accomplish our goals by eating most meals from our long-term food storage while allowing the restaurant or fast food option when our schedule demanded.

Yes, we know that we’re not practicing true survival. We’re not forcing ourselves into simulated hardship. Instead, we’re practicing with and sampling our survival food. I’m OK with that for this experiment. So what were our goals?

Our goals for the week are to:

  • Taste the food. Do you remember the line from the movie Crocodile Dundee – “It tastes like crap, but you can live on it.” Were we going to be miserable eating what we’d bought? The Augason Farms kit has a wide variety of their staple products and recipes that could be made from them, so we’d be able to sample much of it. (And we’d have an idea of which foods we might want to purchase in larger quantities…and which we wouldn’t.)
  • Practice preparing the food. It’s never a good idea to wait until five minutes before you really need something to start learning how to use it. We want to practice preparing the food before we absolutely need to use it. Our one-month food kit is not a case of prepared entrees. It’s an ingredient-based kit that allows you to mix and match items to make a lot of recipes. There’s a big difference between reading the contents on the box and figuring out what you could make with it.
  • Evaluate what’s missing from our food storage plan. When we start living on survival food, what will we be craving that we don’t have? It might be fresh fruits and vegetables, or meat, or desserts, or salty snacks. But until we start using what we have stored, we won’t know what is lacking. We need to fill in the gaps now.
  • Evaluate how much water we’d be using when cooking primarily dehydrated and freeze-dried food. (As it turns out, the kit clearly specifies that it takes 23 gallons of water to prepare all of the included food. That’s 23 gallons of water for one person for one month for just food preparation. What does that do to your estimate of how much water you want for every person to include drinking and washing?)
  • Evaluate portion sizes. Would their claimed “makes 2 servings” really make 2 real world servings?
  • Share our findings with you.

With all that as a backdrop, we finally picked a week to start – last week as a matter of fact. Here are our first lessons and impressions from our week of survival food testing:

  • We have more food in our fridge at any given point than we realize. We were scheduled to begin sampling the survival food last week and immediately realized that we had enough food in our fridge that we needed to use before it spoiled to last us nearly a week. So the first five days were spent eating from our fridge with a little supplement from our pantry shelves. I was actually surprised at this because I don’t think of us having that much ready food on hand. I know we have a healthy-sized pantry, but didn’t realize that we had so much that needed to be eaten. I was really encouraged by this. I know that if an emergency takes out our fridge and freezer (which it likely would), that week would turn into “eat as much as you can in the next few days”. I’ll have more to share with others than I thought I would. (And no, we didn’t go out and do big shopping shortly before our survival food experiment was to begin. Quite the opposite. We had abstained from grocery shopping for about a week before that.)
  • With our on-hand “need to eat” food, our one week of survival food experiment has turned into two weeks of survival food. We’re five days into it and we tasted our first survival food today. (Yes, we’ve tasted many other products in the past, but today was the first in this experiment.)
  • There is a lot of variety in the Augason Farms one-month pack. You can do a lot with it. In addition to their recipe booklet, there are also recipes printed on each can’s label. Being who I am, I put them all into a spreadsheet and created a weeks’ worth of menus.
  • Along with the variety, there’s also a lot of repetition in the Augason Farms recipes. Chicken noodle soup, chicken noodle casserole, and chicken noodle vegetable casserole sound a lot alike to me! Still, having just tasted my first variation of potato soup (creamy potato soup with corn and chicken), I’m embracing the variations. (More on that in our next blog.)
  • I’m really looking forward to this!

Without trying to sound like a commercial, it seems like I should give more info about the Augason Farms one-month pack. This pack is advertised as providing almost 2,100 calories per day for one person for one month. Nutritional information is provided on each can. The only absolutely necessary ingredient that isn’t provided is water. Some of the recipes in the included recipe book include ingredients that you may not have available (sour cream or hard cheese, for example), but most do not.

The kit includes 21 different items in a total of 48 cans:

  • Beef, Chicken, and Bacon TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • Cheesy broccoli soup mix
  • Creamy potato soup mix
  • Chicken noodle soup mix
  • Southwest chili mix
  • Broccoli (freeze dried)
  • Corn (freeze dried)
  • Potato dices (dehydrated)
  • Potato gems (for mashed potatoes)
  • Onions (chopped dehydrated)
  • White rice
  • Whole eggs (powdered)
  • Creamy wheat cereal
  • Buttermilk pancake mix
  • Strawberries (freeze dried slices)
  • Banana slices
  • Milk (powdered)
  • Chocolate milk (powdered)
  • Orange delight drink mix

Have you ever seen the cooking competition show called Chopped on the Food Network? Chefs are given a basket with four ingredients. Some of them are normal ingredients, some are very abnormal. The challenge is to make a tasty meal using all four ingredients, plus whatever else they have available. This kit is like playing Chopped. What kind of culinary wonders can you create with these ingredients and what’s in your pantry?

These aren’t the jumbo #10 cans that you normally see for long-term storage food. Those big boys hold almost a gallon each. The food in this kit all comes in the smaller #2.5 cans which only hold about a quart. The smaller size makes it practical and affordable to sample a lot of products. Besides, the big #10 cans aren’t always your best choice for every type of food storage, as blogger The Survival Mom points out in this excellent article.

The regular price of the kit is $256.99 (with free shipping as of this writing), but it is occasionally on sale. We paid at least $60 less for each of the packs we’ve purchased. (We purchased three kits at different times, so the price of each pack varied.) If you’re just getting started with prepping, or you’ve looked at the huge one-year food kits that many food storage vendors offer and found them to be way out of your budget or your prep plans, this one-month kit might be just the ticket for you. It’s way more affordable, takes up way less space, lets you sample a lot of products, and could be good as a starter pack for you or as a gift for someone else whom you wish was better prepared.

At the regular price, assuming 3 meals/day for 30 days, the price per meal is less than $2.63. That seems pretty darn reasonable. At the prices we paid for our one-month packs, our cost went down to $2.18. And when the meals are stretched with rice or pasta, the price goes even lower. Of course one of our purposes in this experiment is to find the things we like most and purchase those items in larger cans at a better price. But considering the convenience of the smaller cans with menus provided, I’m a happy camper.

Assuming the food is good. Assuming it truly is 30 days’ worth of food. That story comes next…

Emergency ChecklistIn 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.

Water

  • 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?

Food

  • 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.

Cooking

  • 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?

Shelter/Heat

  • 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.

Security

  • 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?

Documentation

  • 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?

BudgetingToday’s article is by Gale Newell, a young woman who is taking positive steps toward becoming self-sufficient. Gale has written for a number of prepper blogs and submitted the following article to us to help us get control of one of our most important resources — our money. This may become the first installment in an ongoing series on financial issues from a prepper perspective. I’ll turn this over to Gale now, and chime in with my own comments below hers.

Budgeting for Prepping

Paper currency will always be a major factor in your life, unless you plan on disappearing into the mountains to live the rest of your life in a cave. Some of us (including me) hope to do this someday, and live a self-sufficient life. Even then, someone will probably find you and want money for something. Until TEOTWAWKI comes and the foundation of our society crumbles, paper currency will continue to hold value in our world. So, what can you do now, as a prepper?

Step 1: Keep track of all of your expenses. There is still a lot of value in balancing your checking account. In addition, recording all your transactions in your checkbook’s register allows you to double check everything your bank does, without relying on an internet connection. A bank has thousands of transactions every day and mistakes, while rare, do happen.

I personally don’t carry my checkbook on me. While this means I can’t record my expenditures as I make them, I keep the receipts from all my transactions in my wallet and then add them to my checkbook’s register at the end of the day. It only takes few minutes and it provides me with an organized record of all my expenditures. Furthermore, it provides me with an accurate, up-to-date balance. Online banking is great, but it can take a day or two for transactions to clear.

I personally like to sit down and compare my checkbook’s register to the information available at my online banking. It’s a quick way to double check my work and the bank’s numbers. This could be seen as an optional step, and it is, but I highly recommend doing it. If everything is accounted for and looks good, it’s time to create categories to sort your finances into.

Step 2: Budget. After about a month of recording transactions, the process of creating a budget can begin. Here are some very useful budgeting forms from www.DaveRamsey.com, which can help you divide your overall budget into meaningful categories. If you are looking to cut certain expenses out of your life you could label a category “unnecessary expenses.” Once you have sorted your various expenses into their proper category, add them up. The totals in each category should give you a good idea of where your money is going.

Step 3: Evaluate. Now that you have a good picture of what you are actually spending your money on, you can decide which areas require some cutbacks. If you created an Unnecessary Expenses category, you could immediately use that money somewhere else. The Unnecessary category could be very handy if you need to save up money to put towards outstanding debts, or if all your debts are paid off, put that money towards additional preps. All you would have to do is set aside the amount you would normally spend on expenses you deemed unnecessary into something like a savings account. Any money sitting in a savings account should not be touched for any purpose other than putting a down payment on a house or getting out of debt.

Hopefully this will help readers see how staying organized and planning ahead can reduce the stress of living within the current times. Budgeting is not something over the head of a prepper. In fact, it becomes doubly important for reducing your financial footprint and making strides to getting off the grid. In a capitalist economy in which everything revolves around money, remember there are things much more important than material goods and extra stuff. Use saving money as a chance to reconnect with friends and family, not spending so many nights out or making impulse purchases.

Gale Newell is continually working on being a self-sufficient human being. She finds herself spending her summer days outdoors, whether raising food in her organic garden or playing cards with friends and family. She enjoys grilling meals on her old-school charcoal grill and has overcome an addiction to multiple television series. Gale feels freer than ever and is truly happy. She is prepared for the future and ready for whatever happens next.

Phil’s Two Cents Worth on Budgeting for Prepping (pun intended)

Gale brings up some excellent points. The late, great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar was known for saying, “Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen.” Next to tithing and providing for the needs of your family, budgeting for prepping may be the most important thing you do with your money.

Creating a realistic budget can be terribly difficult because it forces us to be deadly honest with ourselves. The things that will really kill your budgeting process are the dreaded occasional expenses. We all have WAY more of them than we are aware of. I read recently that the Back To School season is the second biggest shopping period of the year, second only to Christmas. The average family spends $600 per child on back to school expenses. Did that annual expense make its way  into your monthly budget? I just had my roof replaced a couple of years ago. It cost thousands, and it’s something that typically has to be done about once every 15 years where I live. Is that in my budget? How about medical expenses, insurance, car maintenance, saving for my next vehicle, replacing my aging water heater, or the need to travel across the country to visit a sick or dying relative? How do you budget for these kinds of things? I’m going to need to replace virtually everything that I own at some point. Do I have that in my budget? Do you?

I recommend making the most realistic budget you can possibly conceive of, then adding about 30% to it, which you stick in the bank or your private vault, and guard it against foolishness and dissipation until you really need to tap into it. Great advice, Phil. [ Note to self: Maybe I really need to start doing this myself, instead of continually being taken by surprise and driven into debt. ]

An obvious way to squeeze the most out of your prepping budget is to buy items when they’re on sale. September is National Preparedness Month. (Who says our friends at FEMA aren’t looking out for us?) You’ll find some deep discounts on prepping supplies from all of the following vendors. We’ve bought from them and are able to recommend them to our readers.:

Once again, our thanks to Gale Newell, who saw a need and stepped up to address it. I look forward to more thought-provoking articles from her in the future.

In case you haven’t seen the emails or heard the news, allow me to let you in on a secret — September is National Preparedness Month. That brings several questions to my mind:

  • Am I more prepared today than I was at this time last year? In the light of the very long list of things I could (and want to) be doing to be better prepared, it’s often easy for me to be discouraged by this question. That’s when I say “STOP! Take a deep breath and let’s get specific.” When I made a specific list of things I have done this year to become more prepared, it turned my discouragement around. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Stop. Take a deep breath and encourage yourself before you move on. (Having trouble identifying what you’ve done to improve your preps this year? Maybe reading our list will help. It’s at the end of this article. We’re providing it just to help you jumpstart your list of things you’ve done.)
  • How can I take advantage of National Preparedness Month? One obvious answer is to take advantage of the sales that most preparedness vendors are having this month. It’s a great time to make some very strategic purchases. The definition of “strategic purchases” will be different for everyone, so before you make those purchases, now is a great time to evaluate your preparedness – otherwise, how can the purchases you make be strategic? While we generally have the perspective that buying more food is always a good thing, our cash available for purchases isn’t unlimited (not even close to it). That means that we have to balance our spending and fill in some of the gaps in our preparedness plan. So, as good as the food sales might be, perhaps the most strategic purchase would be a sun oven or a rocket stove to help you cook some of that food if your normal energy sources aren’t available. Maybe it will be a solar energy kit. We can’t know that until we take a step back and evaluate where we are. Don’t let your “wants” leave you with a long list of “needs.”
  • How can we help our readers take advantage of National Preparedness Month? We are all at different places in our preparedness. Those of you who have been prepping for a while undoubtedly have a list of “next steps” or “wish list” items, many of which will require making some purchases. Later in this article we’re including a list of some of our favorite vendors. You’ll also find ads from some of them in the sidebars of the various pages of our site. Let me offer a bit of help to those who are new to prepping. The question we get asked most often is “How do I get started?” If you’re in that category, stick around! In a month or two, we’ll be starting a “Prepper 101 Club” (or something like that). It will help you get started in prepping with a logical and easy to follow approach. In the meantime, what can you do this month? A great place to start is by reading our article, Getting Started with Prepping. After that, start with the most basic stuff – water and food. Below you’ll find some links to other articles that will help you get started.

Water comes first. How adequate is your water supply? (Hint: You need more than you think.) How do you go about collecting and storing water? Check out these blogs:

Storing Water – How Much is Enough?

Water Storage – a Primer

Our Three-Layered Approach to Prepping – This blog is a good intro about to our approach to prepping in general (short term, medium term, and longer term), and we use water storage as our example, so it gives you an idea about how to plan for your water storage needs.

Food is next. We recommend starting with our two-part Food Storage 101 series:

Food Storage 101: What Types of Food Can I Store for an Emergency?

Food Storage 101: What Types of Food Should I Store for an Emergency?

Once you’re past that pre-school stage, browse our site for other articles on food storage, preservation, gardening, and more.

Now food and water are just the beginning, but everyone has to start somewhere and we don’t want to overwhelm anyone. Wandering around our site will help you understand prepping more and will help you identify where you should spend your money and time this month.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite vendors:

Emergency Essentials
TheReadyStore.com
Both of these vendors are preparedness superstores. They’re best known for their food products, but they both offer a wide range of preparedness products. Both of them have frequent sales.

AugasonFarms.com
Augason Farms is almost exclusively a food vendor. They also run great sales, especially on their large pails of staples. When they put stuff on sale, their prices generally can’t be beat.

Amazon.com
We buy a lot of stuff from Amazon. So much so that we have a membership to Amazon Prime, which gives us free 2nd-day shipping on most items.

SpicesForLess.com
One of the most overlooked area of food storage is spices. All of those buckets of beans, rice, and wheat are going to taste pretty bland without a good supply of spices. Spices For Less sells a wide range of spices and seasonings in any quantity you want, with good discounts applied to larger quantities.

Biblica.com
It’s no secret that The Approaching Day Prepper is a site that has Christian beliefs and values at its core. We believe that God sometimes gives warnings of approaching calamities and that when He does, He expects people to prepare themselves for those events. We also believe that if a prolong period of hardship were to come upon our nation, people who have never given much thought to spiritual matters will seek God. Part of our preps is a stockpile of inexpensive Bibles and New Testaments that we’ve purchased from Biblica.com. We want to be ready to lead a network of home Bible studies and we recognize that in today’s culture, not every home has a Bible. Ours now has dozens of very affordable Bibles that can be given out freely to anyone who will use one.

Here’s what we’ve done to improve our preparedness this year. We still have LOTS more to do. But perhaps reading our list will help you identify your own progress since last September.

  • We’ve started making and storing meals in jars. (Watch for a future blog on this topic!).
  • We expanded our garden by 50% this year and we learned tons more about gardening that we didn’t have time to implement this year. That’s OK. Learning comes before doing, then doing enhances the learning. We’re making plans for next year’s garden right now, applying some of our “lessons learned” during this growing season, so that we’ll be able to increase the size of our garden next year.
  • We rotated our water and increased our water reserves. This included buying a food-grade water barrel, a rain barrel for the garden, and a Katadyn water filter that can process thousands of gallons of water.
  • We’ve bought an ammo reloading press, dies, components, and supplies.
  • Bought a new rifle that could be used for both hunting and home defense.
  • We’ve picked out a pellet stove that we’ll be buying next week. Watch for an article on that purchase decision to come soon. We know buying a pellet stove doesn’t make sense to many people from a true preparedness point of view, but we decided that it was our best option.
  • We’ve added storage racks and begun to reorganize our long-term food storage.
  • We increased our inventory of long shelf-life food.
  • We’ve purchased many non-food survival items – paper products (at last count we have about 300 rolls of toilet paper, enough facial tissue to last a year, and plenty of paper towels) and miscellaneous supplies like tarps and tape.
  • I learned a lot about essential oils and use them regularly.

We’re making progress. It’s a continual process – one that sometimes gets interrupted by the necessities of work and family, but is never abandoned. We hope that you will take advantage of the sales offered by some of the vendors represented on this site during National Preparedness Month, and that you will become more prepared tomorrow than you are today. Also, watch our Facebook page as we’ll put notices there about sales we find interesting.

Stopwatch showing 15 minutesWe’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?

Learn Something

  • 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.

2014 Prepper Calendar
The holidays have come and gone…most of us have gotten back into the real world despite the crazy weather we’re having across the country. It’s time to think about 2014. Some people take a mini-retreat in December to do this, but that just doesn’t happen for most of us. So I want to encourage you to do some planning this week. Find a little bit of time to think ahead toward all that 2014 holds and set your priorities for the coming year. And be sure that part of that planning includes your prepping efforts.

Phil and I did it Sunday evening and we are really glad we did. Phil is by nature a non-planner, so when I suggested we actually use this calendar I created as a result of my blog about Living from a Prepper Perspective…well, let’s just say it was one of those “yes dear” moments. He was gracious enough because he’s a great guy, but in his heart of hearts he felt like he was about to swallow some horrible-but-good-for-you medicine. Before we were done, however, he was a believer. He agreed that the whole experience was positive. And we were all done in just about 30 minutes.

We started by listing all the things we wanted to accomplish, buy, or learn in the area of prepping in 2014. We know that our list is greater than our ability for the most part, but making the list allowed us to put things into three categories based on their cost in terms of time, effort, and money.

  • Easy-Peasy – These are tasks or items that are simple enough, we just haven’t gotten around to doing them or buying them. They are things that are affordable on our “every day” budget. We expect we’ll be able to buy these items out of disposable income some time during the year.
  • Requires Moderate Planning/Effort – These are tasks that are outside of our every day budget but do-able if we plan for them. They’re also tasks that might require more than a few hours to accomplish. Requiring more time means they’re not going to fit into my week without planning for them. This is the category that will get the most attention on our calendar because they’re the things we can do if we’re aware of when they need to be done, how long they’ll take to do,  and make room in our schedule to include them. Without the planning they probably won’t happen. That makes them the tasks and purchases that will benefit the most from using a calendar.
  • Wish List – Our wish list holds items that are so expensive they would keep us from doing much of anything else. Phil and I have two things in this category and we agree that buying the long list of other things is more important to us at this time. Still, putting these expensive things on our list will help keep us focused should we receive unexpected income throughout the year. It will also be a reminder each time we’re tempted to splurge on something else. We can make an informed decision about splurging or saving, instead of just letting impulse reign. Splurging is good sometimes. Other times it’s just squandering the resources God has given us, and derailing the plans that we made in a more rational moment. But I digress.

So, with our freshly made to-do and to-buy lists in hand, we pulled out the 2014 Prepper Planning Calendar (which you can download below) and began to slot things that are time sensitive into their appropriate months. For example, we want to plant more raised-bed gardens this year. That means we need to build them in April so we can plant in May. We also want to build a cold frame to extend our growing season. That got scheduled for late July or early August. After we put all the time sensitive tasks into our planning calendar, we slotted other tasks and purchases in other months, balancing both the time commitment and budget as well as we could.

After just half an hour or so, we had our 2014 Prepping Planning Calendar completed. Even better than that, we both felt a greater peace and confidence in our ability to accomplish more in the coming year without blowing our schedule or budget.

  • Our to-do list and spending plan for the entire year is on paper so I don’t have to remember it any more. (Phil will be glad that I don’t have to ask him yet again when we need to build the cold frame.)
  • We have a balanced plan for spending our time, effort, and money throughout the year that takes into consideration seasonal fluctuations in our availability and finances. If our income or our schedule changes, we can easily adjust the schedule.
  • We don’t have this overwhelming pile of prepper “need to’s” looming in front of us all the time. Phil and I each have one goal for January. That’s do-able. We’ve both begun to make progress on those goals. Instead of feeling overwhelmed at all we have to do over the course of the whole year, we’re feeling a sense of forward progress. That leads to more accomplishment. Feeling overwhelmed only leads to binging on cookies on the couch in front of the TV. (But again, I digress.)

I’m guessing your weeks are something like mine…Mondays quickly become Wednesdays, and then Wednesdays becomes Fridays. We step into Saturday with a list of errands and then celebrate the Lord’s Day. Before we can blink it’s Monday all over again, and yet another week has gone by without me doing those prepper tasks I had hoped to accomplish. Our prepper calendar will help us move forward instead of just spinning our wheels.

I’m looking forward to 2014. It is a year that holds the promise of many things. I anticipate that it will have its ups and downs but I’ve learned that in both we can experience God’s blessings. Let me encourage you to spend a little time thinking about 2014. You can use this calendar to document your prepper plans. There are pages for each month…more or less. You’ll find that the pages don’t strictly follow calendar months – why waste a whole row if there are only two days in a week during that month? To provide more space for writing you’ll find some days from the previous or following months on your calendar page. You’ll also find pages to do the initial planning.

You can download your calendar below. Don’t be surprised if after entering your email address it seems that the blog has reloaded. Simply scroll down to the point and you’ll be able to download the calendar. Enjoy your planning time, friends! And here’s to a prosperous, healthy, and productive year in prepping.

[download file=”http://theapproachingdayprepper.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2014_Prepper_Calendar.pdf” title=”The Approaching Day Prepper 2014 Prepper Calendar”]

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
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.

Determination
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.

Emergency ChecklistIntentionality
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.

Readiness
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.

Our 3-Layer Approach to PreppingIn just about every area of prepping, we like to use a three-layered approach, moving from simple and easily available preps to more serious long-term solutions. This approach keeps us from being overwhelmed by the enormity of purchases we need to make or knowledge and skills that we need to acquire. It also moves us forward in our preps in a logical and balanced way.

Our three-layered approach maps out like this:

  • Preps for immediate use
  • Preps for medium to long-term use
  • Preps for when things really get bad

Preps for Immediate Use. Usually, the things that fall into the immediate use category are also the easiest to purchase and least expensive. For the most part, these first-level preps are the things that we are already using in our everyday lives. The only difference is that we have more of them on hand than what our current daily needs would require. For example, in the area of water, our immediate use water is store-bought bottled water. We use some bottled water on a routine basis, but we have a bit more than we really use stacked up under a work table in our basement for when special needs arise. You can easily build up this kind of water supply by purchasing a few cases when you go shopping over the next couple of months. We’re in the process of building up to about a week’s supply of water in bottled water.

In an emergency or any unusual situation, this first layer of prepping buys you time to evaluate and adjust to your situation before you have to begin living in a way that you are not so familiar with. In a true emergency, everything changes. Anything you can do to add normalcy to your life brings a level of calm to your world. Grabbing a bottle of water is something we do every day. Having extra bottled water stored away allows me to continue living as I have been while I figure out how to live in a new way — and I don’t have to run out and buy anything because I already have it on hand.

5-gallon-stackable-water-containersPreps for Medium to Long-term Use. This second level of preps are things that you don’t typically use every day under normal circumstances, but they can help you sustain a normal lifestyle when your normal lifestyle becomes disrupted for more than a few days. These types of prep generally require a bit of thought and planning to determine what your needs are and what your best approach is to meeting those needs, and they usually cost a little more than the things you buy for day-to-day use.

This is the level where prepping really starts to become an intentional lifestyle. Buying extra bottled water is a no-brainer for someone who typically uses bottled water as a convenience product, but this second level of prepping is where you start to acquire things that you won’t be using on a routine basis. These are things that you will have on hand in the event that you find yourself in a situation in which your normal way of life is disrupted and the stuff you keep in your cupboard isn’t enough to get you through it.

Sticking with water as our example, we have purchased a set of five-gallon, food-grade, stackable water containers that we fill and rotate regularly. We don’t drink from them during normal times. That’s not what we bought them for. These containers required a little more investment than the cases of water and it takes some time to fill them, but if we find ourselves in a second-level situation that requires more than just a couple of spare cases of bottled water to get us through it, we’ll be glad that we have this on hand ready to meet our hydration needs.

Katadyn_Combi_water_filterPreps for When Things Really Get Bad. Then there’s the third layer of preps – those we make for when things really get bad. Those preps are the ones that will sustain you for a longer time. In the area of water, we recently invested in a small, portable Katadyn water filtration device that can purify up to 13,000 gallons of water to safe drinking standards. We’re talking about water from a stream or pond or rain barrel. This device is about the size of a tall thermos jug and could be easily carried in a backpack. 13,000 gallons of drinking water is enough to meet our needs for a great long while. We have plans for installing a rain barrel system on our house this coming spring that will provide free water for watering our garden and could help supply drinking water in the event of a level-three emergency.

I Love It When I Get To Use My Preps!
We recently experienced a boil alert in our community. The city put up signs at intersections in our neighborhood that told us they were working on the water lines and that we would need to boil our water to make it safe for drinking. That was an understatement if there ever was one! The stuff coming out of our pipes (I’m not sure I’d call it water) was brown and nasty looking. How brown was it? Think strong iced tea. Yeah, that kind of brown. Phil left for work shortly after we learned of the alert and noticed the alarming color of the water coming out of our tap. That left me home to deal with living with no water.

Intrepid prepper that I’ve become, my first reaction was to wonder what in the world was I going to do for water over the next indefinite period of time. All of a sudden, I wanted water. I don’t drink nearly as much of it as I should on a regular basis, but knowing I couldn’t have any really increased my desire for it. I mean I couldn’t drink Diet Coke exclusively for the next few days, so what was I going to do? Tea was my next option, but the water was so yucky I really didn’t want to drink any of it even if I had boiled it! Boiling this stuff wasn’t really going to make it clean and safe — just hot.

Yeah, I’m still new at this. My prepper instincts didn’t kick in right away.

But it wasn’t long before my newly minted prepper training kicked in. I remembered those cases of bottled water we have stored under the work table in our basement. For the three days that our water was questionable, I had all the water I could ever want available in those cases of bottled water. And if it went longer than those three day, I could refill the bottles of water from our five-gallon jugs. And if we started to run low on that, we could refill the five-gallon containers with water from our Katadyn water filter.

I went from being a bit worried to totally confident we could take care of ourselves. No running out to the store hoping they still had bottled water on the shelves. No rationing here. (Obviously, in a true emergency there would be rationing.)

This short-term inconvenience allowed me to use some of my first-level preps in a real-life (albeit non-emergency) situation. And it reinforced one of the main reasons we prep – so that we can take the “emergency” out of the emergency. My emotional state changed from nervous to totally calm and even confident – simply because I had stored water.

In a true emergency, knowing that you have what you need to survive allows you to remain calm and puts you in a position to help others. That’s why we prep.