167: My (rational) approach for how to start prepping
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As more people become interested in homesteading, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, I’ve received numerous questions about the topic of prepping. More specifically, different versions of I want to get started but the whole thing seems really overwhelming.
When you’re new to this life, it’s easy to think prepping and be immediately overwhelmed with questions. Where do you start? How do you afford it? Where do you put it all? And are you crazy if you do it?
Here’s my simple, no drama, “no, I’m not a crazy person” version of prepping. Hopefully it will help you.
Three truths about prepping
Nowadays, prepping is a loaded term. In some communities, it brings to mind a tacticool loose cannon character who got most of their exposure to survivalism from TV and movies, and is ready to head off to his bunker in the woods with his MREs and 15 guns. But really, prepping is just keeping extra supplies on hand. It’s buying extra. That’s all it is.
Prepping takes time, and it’s not something you can do all at once. Prepping is preparing, and preparing works best when you take time to do it and devote resources to it. The more time and resources you have, the better prepared you will be. So that’s why you start today. Not the day before the blizzard/hurricane is supposed to hit.
While there are some folks out there who are concerned about the zombie apocalypse or the complete collapse of society, the situations most folks will get caught in are shorter term things like disruptions caused by weather or a job loss. To me, having stuff on hand is normal because I live where there are blizzards and ice storms. Not being able to leave your house for a few days is a thing that happens here. From a prepping aspect, I’m more concerned about that than the world falling into complete and utter disarray. Not that I don’t sometimes address the chaos of the times we live in, but an ice storm or 3 feet of snow is far more likely to mess up my world.
A word about current events
“But Amy, the state of the world… I need to be prepared.”
It’s important to keep an eye open to what’s going on in the world so you can form an opinion about what’s coming. But keep your head on while you look around. Freaking out about what you think is around the corner does nothing to help you prepare.
So let’s back up a bit and talk about a simple way to get started in building up your stock piles of goods.
A couple tips on how to start prepping
There are a couple easy, no-drama ways to get started in prepping.
When you head out on a shopping trip, buy one extra of each (or some) non-perishable item (s) on your grocery list. Then rotate your stock. Example?
Shopping: You’re out of laundry soap, so it’s on your list. Instead of buying one jug of laundry soap, buy two.
Rotating: Use the first jug as normal. When you open the second jug you purchased, buy another one. You will still have two jugs of laundry soap at home—the one that’s open and the new one that’s waiting to be opened.
Some people get confused about that, as in if I buy two jugs, use two jugs, and then go buy more, what am I helping? I’m just putting more stuff in my house and using it. But the point is not to use both jugs before needing to shop again, it’s to have a rotating stock to pull from. It’s to always have an extra sitting.
Another thing I’ve done is always buying certain items when I end up on a shopping trip. For awhile, every time I’d go out grocery shopping, I’d always pick up a three pack of kleenexes, a big thing of paper towels and a big thing of TP. Then when I was pretty stocked up on that, I switched to every time I went grocery shopping, I made sure to toss in a box of ziploc bags and a sleeve of canning lids.
Sometimes it’s as simple as choosing an aisle you’re going to pop through, and grabbing a couple extra of the things your family uses — whatever catches you eye. For instance, you might head down the first aid aisle and grab a box of bandaids, some first aid cream, some betadine, etc.
The wrong way to start prepping
When wanting to get into prepping, what you shouldn’t do is go to the store and buy everything.
What you don’t do is hear something is happening and then go to the store and panic and clean them out because OMG WE DONT KNOW WHEN THE NEXT SHIPMENT IS COMING. And then the next time there is a shipment, you clean them out again.
You guys, that’s why the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 happened. It’s because the family that usually goes through 6 rolls in a month decided to panic (because panicking is a choice you make) and purchased enough toilet paper to last them an entire year. And so did their neighbors, and their friends, and their co-workers. And now suddenly there is no toilet paper in any store anywhere.
And every time another shipment comes in, even though they all have enough toilet paper to last them an entire year sitting at home, they panic buy enough for another few months because it happens to be on the shelves because OMG WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE IS NO TOILET PAPER AT THE STORE NEXT MONTH?
This is the same reason there are ammo shortages. There are the people that buy a box or a case here and there, and then there are the people who get wind of a shortage, and they go to the nearest ammo supplier and buy every box of 9mm on the shelf because OMG, THERE’S A SHORTAGE!
Gee. I wonder why.
Know what you use
You won’t know what you need unless you track what you use.
Part of the reason that people freaked out in the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 is they didn’t have a clue how much TP they normally used. So when someone said OMG, shortage! they panicked.
If you know that you use x amount of TP in a month, you won’t feel the need to go panic buy 10 cases of TP when you realize 10 cases would last your family 2 years.
Same with ammo. If you know that you shoot 100 rounds at league every other week, and you shoot however much for hunting every year, you’re in a much better position to know if you need to stock up. (Not if you want to. If you need to.) Do you keep track of how much you shoot, or are you just pulling the trigger and blasting rounds? How many rounds do you actually put downrange in a year, whether we’re talking hunting or training or just fun plinking. Do you have any idea? Because if you do—and you don’t get caught up in the “but I’m gonna save the world with all the bullets when they come for us” madness—you’re a better judge of what you need.
And I like ammo just as much as the next firearms enthusiast, but I find it really hard to get behind someone needing 30 bazillion rounds of 9mm when no one else around them can find any. Especially when the guy or gal who is hoarding the ammo hasn’t shot their 9mm in three years.
What items to stock up on first
Food is where people commonly start when they think about prepping, probably because food is required to live and we all (hopefully) eat every day.
But what you focus on first is up to you. Every person is different because of their situation, lifestyle, where they live, space they have available, size of their family, etc, so you have to make your own decision about how to proceed. Just a few areas to think about to get you started:
— Food (for people/pets/livestock)
— Medicines/ First aid supplies (I’ve started focusing more on this area because of current shortages and disruptions in healthcare.)
— Household supplies (paper products, cleaning supplies, trash bags, batteries)
— Personal Hygiene items
Start paying attention to the items you use everyday. Contact lens solution. Deodorant. Soap. Toothpaste. Coffee filters. Expand that to items you use but replace less frequently. Batteries. Light bulbs. Ink for your printer. Garbage bags.
And while you’re thinking about all these items, consider this. Instead of thinking I’m preparing for the apocalypse, frame it as, “wouldn’t it be cool if I only had to shop ‘x’ number of times a year?”
Prepping requires money
The uncomfortable part of the prepping is just keeping extra supplies on hand discussion is the fact it does require money to purchase extra supplies to have on hand.
We all have different amounts of extra funds to work with for various reasons. What I will say here is there is nothing helpful about falling prey to the mind game that is, “don’t buy any extra because you can’t buy all the extra”. Which is to say if you only have funds to buy an extra bag of rice and nothing else, it is better than not purchasing anything extra at all. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you’re not doing anything just because you’re not in a financial place where you can do it all. Every little bit helps and gets you that much further ahead.
What do I do about storage space?
You obviously need to work with the space you have and figure out what makes sense for you to have extra of on hand. I’m not going to take up space to store extra boxes of dog treats because sorry, if we can’t leave the house for a few days and the dogs are out of treats, you’re just gonna have to suffer without them.
Having said that, be creative with the space you have. If something is used in the kitchen it doesn’t have to be stored in the kitchen. You might have space in the top of your office closet, under your bed, behind the couch, under the stairs, etc.
Store things properly. Use glass jars or plastic bins or food grade buckets (depending on the item in question) because there is nothing worse than thinking you’re awesome for buying another 20 lb bag of rice but finding out mice got in to it.
Should you talk about your prepping?
A friend recently said she’d stopped posting about things they were doing on their farm, especially when it came to all the food they were putting up and how prepared they were. With the state of the world, she was suddenly concerned that if things went south, people would know she had lots of stuff stored up.
I absolutely get that, and I don’t talk too specifically about things we happen to have here. However, I will say that if things were to really go south, most people will assume that homesteaders have food, etc. So while I don’t think you should necessarily broadcast the amounts of things you keep on hand, also know that as a homesteader, you’re kind of outing yourself. People will make assumptions about you.
Don’t let prepping freak you out.
Prepping is simply having extra items on hand. It’s what great grandma did, and I guarantee you she wasn’t preparing for any kind of zombie apocalypse. If you want to stock up for some kind of collapse of society, you can certainly work up to that. But if prepping is new to you, just start grabbing some extra TP and dog food so you don’t run out when the blizzard comes. It’s a perfectly respectable and logical place to start.
— Amy Dingmann, 10-5-21
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