How to Survive When Prepping Just Isn’t Enough

The Organic Prepper

Have you noticed a sense of urgency in the prepping community lately?

Maybe it’s the tensions with North Korea.

Maybe it’s the slow-motion collapse of the brick-and-mortar retail industry.

Maybe it’s a contagion from the other places around the world that are actively preparing for the potential of nuclear war.  

Whatever the reason, it seems like natural disasters are becoming more catastrophic lately and experts are ringing the warning bell about our economy. Really, it’s only a matter of time before our world changes dramatically.

Many of us have stocked our homes to the rafters with beans, rice, bullets, and band-aids.  Each trip to the store adds more to our stockpiles as we try to get what we need before time runs out.  Newbie preppers are feeling even more frantic, wondering how to get prepared when each week it takes more money to put less in the grocery cart. (If you’re new to preparedness, here’s a little primer with some great links.)

But if you read Jose’s article last week about the things he could never have prepared for in Venezuela, it is very clear that merely stockpiling is not enough.  No matter how many cans of green beans you have stored away, one day they will run out.  We have become so dependent on the “buy it as you need it” lifestyle that despite our food storage, there are still gaps that must be filled.

And the only way to fill these gaps is to take things a step beyond prepping.

And that step is self-reliance.

Self-reliance is defined as the ability to provide for oneself without the help of others.  No amount of stockpiling gives you true self-sufficiency.  That can only be garnered from a combination of skills, supplies, attitudes, and habits that mean the difference between a person with a great pantry and a true survivor.

Self-reliance is what will save you when…

  • The grocery stores close their doors or become so expensive that people cannot afford to shop
  • The banks go on an indefinite holiday, after draining depositor savings accounts and pension funds
  • Electricity and heat on demand become so expensive that only the wealthy can afford them
  • Medical care no longer exists for the average person or is directed by government death panels
  • A natural disaster, an act of terror, a nuclear strike, or EMP completely, irrevocably changes our way of life

The list could go on and on.  And you could probably add a dozen different scenarios of impending doom, yourself.

Self-reliance, unlike prepping, doesn’t cost a lot of money – it’s about planning and acquiring basic skills and tools. But more importantly, it’s about putting your plan into practice before you have no other option but to do so. Because trust me when I tell you that if your plan is to open up your bucket of seeds when you’ve never gardened before or hunt deer when you’ve never hunted before, you will be in for a rude – and probably deadly – awakening.

Self-reliance is a lifestyle and to be successful at it, you need to start living it now.

What would you do if you could never go to a store again? If you could never have utilities provided by a supplier again?  What if you were truly on your own, forever?

For some situations, prepping just isn’t enough.

As Jose warned us, there are some situations you simply can’t prep for. And for those situations, you must be self-reliant and realistic.

To truly embrace a self-reliant lifestyle, you have to take a good hard look at what is available around you and focus your efforts there. Most of us aren’t going to have a cow in milk at all times. Bananas aren’t going to be a common food unless you live in Hawaii. Think locally and embrace your resources instead of trying to maintain a life exactly like the one you have right now.

That’s why, right now, wherever you live, you must develop self-reliant plans for the following necessities.


Clean drinking water is one of the most important requirements for survival.  Now is the time to figure out how you will get water if your stored water runs out.  Some ideas might be:

  • Rain barrels (which are illegal in some states)
  • Less obvious water collection containers like pools and ponds (don’t forget the roof if you live in an apartment building)
  • Ways to purify the water you’ve collected (When you purchase a filtration device, don’t forget to stock up on extra filters and repair kits)
  • Locate nearby lakes, rivers and streams and have a way to manually move the water, like a hand cart, wagon, or even a baby stroller
  • Wells (including non-electric pumps)

Food production

Many people believe that they will just be able to stick some seeds in the ground and feed their families year round.  It isn’t that easy. You can only learn the foibles of your bit of ground through trial and error.  It takes a lot more veggies than most people think to feed a family for a year.  Anything from a blight to bad weather to a horde of hungry bunnies can wipe out all of your hard work and leave you without a bite to store away. Look into some of these methods:

  • This article talks about how to grow a survival garden what to do if your garden fails
  • Gardening in your backyard or on a balcony
  • An aquaponics or hydroponics system
  • Raising chickens, rabbits, and other micro-livestock in your backyard
  • Sprouting
  • Hunting and foraging (a nice supplement to your diet but a risky plan for long-term survival when everyone else has the same idea)
  • Full-scale farming/homesteading
  • Rooftop gardening
  • Greenhouses and cold-frames

In the event of a break in the supply system, start working on your garden immediately. If it fails, you will still have your stockpiled supplies to rely on.

Food preservation

Not all of us are lucky enough to live in a place where we can grow food outdoors all year long.  For the rest of us, food preservation is a lifeline in the winter.  A few basic supplies and tools are needed.  Just like food production, it’s important to practices food preservation and work out the kinks now, while you still have moderately affordable groceries as a backup.  As well, this allows you to rely on healthy, non-GMO foods instead of the inexpensive, highly processed garbage at the stores.  Learn the following skills:

Reduce dependence on utilities

Whether you live in the country or in a high-rise apartment, you need to take steps to reduce your dependence on electricity at the flip of a switch, water from the tap, heat from the thermostat, and cooking at the turn of a dial.   Your priorities are:

  • Water
  • Sanitation
  • Heat
  • Electrical power
  • Lights
  • Refrigeration or other methods of safe food storage
  • Cooking methods

Every situation is unique so start now to amass the necessary tools to meet your needs should the lights go out on a long-term basis. My personal plan is very low-tech since my budget doesn’t include generators and thousands of gallons of fuel.

Personal defense

This is the sticking point for many people. But if you can’t defend your supplies, your home, and your garden, you don’t really have them at all – you are just using them until someone better armed or tougher comes and takes these things away from you.

Look at Argentina’s economic collapse as an example of what could happen – violent crime there increased by 35% in one year.  One study went so far as to call property crime a tool of redistribution: “Overall, these results suggest that property crime has been used as a redistributive tool for the poorest to compensate for their impoverishment during the last decade and in particular during the ultimate crisis in Argentina.”

As both Selco and Jose will affirm, defending your property is essential to survival in a world without the rule of law.

Some solutions for personal defense:

  • Arm yourself and learn to use your weapon of choice (Here’s why I believe that preppers need guns)
  • Stock up on ammo while it is still available
  • Have secondary methods of defense in which you are proficient
  • Learn basic hand-to-hand self-defense skills

Home security

Not only should you be prepared to defend your home, but you should try to avoid the fight in the first place by securing your property.

  • Make your property less accessible by fencing it
  • Install heavy doors in reinforced frames
  • Install sturdy brackets to hold a bar in place on either side of the doors
  • Growing thorny inhospitable plants under windows and on fences
  • Place alarms on windows and doors
  • Install security cameras (even if they are fake and just have a blinking light)
  • Keep a low profile – if no one else has lights or power, cover your windows thoroughly so that they cannot see that you have them
  • Don’t be ostentatious – keep your property looking similar to everyone else’s in your neighborhood
  • Keep all windows and doors securely locked
  • Consider the potential necessity of standing  watch in shifts if the situation has thoroughly devolved

Jose has advice on securing your property and Selco has suggestions for making your property seem less desirable and eye-catching to criminals.

Learn to deal with medical issues

If you rely heavily on the medical system, you could be in for a lot of trouble when that system is no longer available. But there are things you can do.

  • Learn First Aid
  • Take a volunteer paramedics class
  • Learn about herbalism so you can create your own medicines (Here is the very best course I know of, and it’s designed with preppers in mind)
  • Collect references to use when medical care is not available (Start with Prepper’s Natural Medicine)
  • Pick up necessary tools like thermometers, stethoscopes, scalpels, dental tools, etc.

Change your perspective on money

Making some difficult changes now can help to provide a more stable standard of living in a world that is going downhill at breakneck speed. By decreasing your monthly output, you can hang on to necessities.

If you’re serious about embarking on a journey to hardcore frugality, subscribe to my monthly newsletter, The Cheapskate’s Guide to the Galaxy. Your savings are GUARANTEED.

This is how you survive that for which you cannot prep.

No matter how much food you buy, it may not be enough to get you through difficult times that could lie ahead.

And stop watching for a massive event.

Instead of a huge, life-changing calamity, consider that it may be the culmination of many small events, rising prices and lower incomes, and the deliberate erosion of our self-sufficiency that cause the end of the world as we know it.

The lists above aren’t comprehensive – they are jumping off points to apply to your own situations.  Wherever you are planted, whether it’s a big city, a rural farm, or a nice neighborhood in suburbia, you need to make a plan that fits where you are right now. Figure out now how to make the best of it and not only survive with your family but thrive.

Ask the people in Greece whether they regret not having stocked up on food supplies when those items were abundantly available.  Ask the people in Argentina whether they feel the need to be armed against roving gangs and home invaders. Ask the people of Venezuela whether they wish they had some backyard chickens and a vegetable garden.

Hunger, cold, crime, and fear are the daily realities in many countries that once enjoyed a similar standard of living to that of the average North American.  Our debt-based standard of living is unsustainable, and we must be able to connect these trends with what is happening in your own country in order to see the need for preparation.

Today, we still have stores at every corner, reliable utilities, and social safety nets in place.  These may soon become a thing of the past and if we wait before working on our self-reliance skills, the window of opportunity may slam shut.

When I tell you to focus on self-reliance, please understand that I’m not suggesting that you stop prepping – your stockpile is vital insurance that can help to cushion you when things go downhill. But along with your food storage and your rocket stoves and your medical supplies, begin creating a self-sufficient lifestyle that will carry you far beyond what mere prepping ever could.

The Organic Prepper

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