Over the past few years, here in America….
Contaminated water caused a complete loss of municipal services in both Ohio and West Virginia, resulting in almost a million people vying for the stock in local stores.
A freak confluence of storms caused a “Superstorm” that took out power to much of the Eastern Seaboard, including New York City and the coastal parts of New Jersey. Nearly a year later, some families were still without electricity to their homes.
Four winters in a row, a “polar vortex” caused horrifyingly low temperatures and paired with winter storms to make the mid-western US resemble the Arctic Circle.
A small town in Missouri was under siege twice in a few months due to a police shooting of a young black man, and the officer’s subsequent acquittal.
Job loss and poverty are at an all-time high.
Wildfires have torn through numerous states, giving residents only minutes to flee and leaving utter devastation in their wake.
An island territory suffered a hurricane that left thousands dead and many have been without utilities for almost a year.
A deadly virus that everyone thought would be relegated to the distant regions of Africa was diagnosed here in the US, not just once, but multiple times.
Now, read that and try to tell me that disasters don’t happen. Try to say that it’s impossible that they’d happen to you. If you say this, you’re deluding yourself because the reality is too unpleasant, and we both know it. If you’d like to continue deluding yourself, thank you for stopping by. Enjoy the articles about wholesome food, and pretend not to notice the articles that urge you to take responsibility for yourself and your family.
However, if you’re ready to accept this fact, read on. I’ll tell you how to get started in a way that isn’t overwhelming. No bunkers, no wearing of tinfoil, no filtering and drinking of pee, and no building of Arks will be mentioned. That stuff is all in Prepping 201. (Kidding!)
How to Get Started Prepping
When you begin reading websites about prepping, sometimes it can be overwhelming. You see people talking about their one-year food supplies, their bug-out lodges, their ammo collection, and their homestead that is so far out in the wilderness that they have to climb a big pine tree on top of the mountain to get an internet connection and boast online about their seclusion.
Most preppers are just regular folks with a self-reliant mindset.
I’m here to tell you, getting started does not require a $20,000 investment or your children feverishly packing beans and rice into Ziplock bags late into the night.
There are 10 simple things you can do to get started. Lots of them are free and if you apply yourself, you can get started on all 10 steps in less than a week. All of the highlighted text is a link that will take you to related resources so you can learn more.
#1. Fill up a whole bunch of empty bottles with water.
If you haven’t taken out the recycling yet this week, don’t! You can use those empty two-liter soda pop bottles and gallon water bottles to stock up on a drinking water supply. Count on a gallon a day per human and pet. (Two 2-liter bottles are approximately a gallon). If you don’t have any containers you can fill, you can buy 5-gallon jugs of water at most grocery stores or Wal-mart. Most of the time, you’ll pay well under $20 for a full jug of water. Five of those will keep a family of 4 in drinking water for just over a week, should it be required. Add to your supply each week, and soon you’ll have a month supply, quietly sitting there in your basement. Here’s an infographic to get you started on safely storing water. If you want to be more serious about your water supply, I have a book about it that you can get on Amazon.
#2. Bookmark some websites.
The internet is a wonderful place, and best of all, this knowledge can be found for FREE! The more you know about crisis situations, the more ready you will be to face them. Some sites are friendlier to beginners than others, so if you stumble upon a forum where people seem less than enthusiastic about helping people who are just starting out, don’t let it get you down. Move on and find a site that makes you feel comfortable. Following are some of my favorites, and the link will take you to a good starting point on these sites. In no particular order:
- The Organic Prepper (obviously – and subscribe here for the daily newsletter)
- Ready Nutrition
- Graywolf Survival
- Survival Blog
- Backdoor Survival
#3. Take a look at your budget.
What? Budgets don’t sound very prepperly! But how do you expect to pay for all of those beans, bullets, and band-aids if you don’t make some adjustments to your spending and shopping habits? Here are some suggestions on ways to put money aside for prepping, and here are some ideas on creating a budget, and most importantly, sticking to it.
#4. Inventory your food supply, then start building your stockpile.
You probably have more food on hand than you realize you do. Before you go out and spend lots of money at the grocery store, it’s important to go through your cupboards, pull things out, and get organized. You don’t know what you need until you know what you have. Be sure to put things away in an organized fashion so you can find what you need, when you need it. Now that you know what you have, you can fill in the holes. You can’t expect to have a 1-year food supply all at once. Start out with a couple of weeks’ supply and go from there. Resist the urge to stock up on nutritionally useless foods like Ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese. If there is a situation going on in which you must rely solely on your stockpile, you will want to be nourished, not just filled up. If you want to build a one-month food supply super-fast, here’s how to create it with a few clicks of the mouse.
#5. Have a drill.
The absolute best way to know what you need during an emergency is to simulate a crisis. Get your family on board and spend a weekend without power and running water. Keep a list going for the entire weekend so that you can note what needs arose. (Leave the breakers on for the refrigerator and freezer – you don’t want to potentially have your food spoil.) Can you make coffee and food? Can you keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer? Can you keep the kids entertained without the internet or phone service?
#6. Prep for a power outage.
With most disasters comes a power outage, just to up the challenge ante. Sometimes the power outages are the disaster all by themselves. Remember about 5 years ago when a freak ice storm knocked out the power in Arkansas and Missouri for over a month? You want to be ready for stuff like that. Be sure you have food that doesn’t require cooking, light sources (hint: think solar garden stakes), a way to stay warm or cool, and a way to salvage the food in your fridge and freezer. Figure out a cooking method that doesn’t require electricity in the event that the outage lasts more than a few days. Be ready with games and non-power dependent activities to keep the kids (and by default, the parents) sane.
#7. Figure out how to use the bathroom if the toilet doesn’t flush.
In an all-out disaster that shuts down municipal water supplies, you may find yourself in a situation where the toilet won’t flush. At times like this, you’ll want to shut off the main to your house, because you could end up with other people’s waste backing up through the lines. A quick, inexpensive solution is to turn your toilet into a litter box for humans. Drain the water from the bowl, then line it with a very heavy contractor’s garbage bag. Place some kitty litter in the bottom of it. When someone uses the bathroom, they should put a new scoop of litter on top of their waste. It’s vital to make sure the bag doesn’t get too heavy to carry without ripping. Seal the full bags well, then store them outside until service resumes. Go here for a more detailed explanation of the kitty litter toilet. If you must use other disposal methods, the safest way to get rid of it is to bury it far from water sources or gardens.
#8. Prep for an evacuation.
Now you need to pack a bug-out bag. If budget is a concern, use bags you already have along with supplies that you already have. The important thing is to have this stuff organized and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Have a list of last minute items so that you know what you need. It’s better to think this through when you’re calm, not when the clock is ticking towards disaster. You’ll want things like personal documents, extra medication, comfort items for children, and survival supplies that could get you through 3 days away from home. To take a look at the ultimate prepper’s bug out bag, look at this one from Graywolf Survival.
#9. Be prepared to defend your home and family.
It is an unfortunate but unavoidable truth that disasters bring out the worst in a lot of people. (Remember Ferguson? This wasn’t even a disaster, it was an unpopular verdict.)This truth is what turns a lot of people off from prepping. They can understand the need for having a few cans of food and some extra toilet paper, but they’re so immersed in cognitive dissonance that they can’t wrap their brains around the possibility of civil unrest. You do NOT want to be one of those families who bury their heads in the sand. You can have a 10-year supply of food, water, and medicine, but if you can’t defend it, you don’t own it. The article The Anatomy of a Breakdown explains the predictable patterns of social unrest. The best way to win a fight is to avoid getting into that fight in the first place. Secure your home and lay low, but be prepared if trouble comes to visit. Don’t rely on 911. During widespread civil unrest, the cops are going to be busy and it’s unlikely that help will arrive. Have a safe room for vulnerable family members. Be armed and know how to use your weapon of choice. If you don’t know how to use your weapon, learning should be one of your top priorities. Here’s some advice from someone who knows a lot more about weapons than I do
#10. Build your resource library.
This is where some money could come into play. Most of the time, people in the preparedness world like to have hard copies of important information. This way, if the power goes out and you can’t access the internet or recharge your Kindle, you still have access to vital advice. Some of these books are for just such an event, while others are guides to building your self-reliance skills.
- The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster (This is the be-all and end-all Bible of prepping)
- The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget
- The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide
- Prepper’s Home Defense: Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary
- SAS Survival Guide: How to Survive in the Wild, on Land or Sea (Collins GEM) (I keep one of these in my purse)
- Prepper’s Natural Medicine
- The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way
Want more books? Here’s a whole article about building your prepper library.
What are you waiting for?
If you’re new to this, there’s no better time to start than right this minute.
Go through the list and do the free things first. Do all of the plotting and planning second, and then put your plans into action as your budget allows. Whatever you do, stop waiting around. Disasters won’t wait until it’s a convenient time for you.
If you a seasoned prepper, please share your inexpensive start-up ideas for newbie preppers in the comments below. If you have friends and loved ones you’d like to help get started, send them this article. It’s loaded with budget-friendly links to start them on their journey. Help encourage people to join our community of self-reliance!