Stock up on paper goods

One suggestion I often make to new preppers is to stock up on things like paper plates and bowls. While yes these products aren’t the most environmentally friendly, they are great to have on hand during emergencies.

Quite often, one of the first things to go in a crisis is potable water. Granted, we preppers should always have a good supply of water stockpiled for this very situation. We should also have multiple means of purifying water too.

However, washing plates and bowls could quickly cut into that supply. You’re not going to wash these things in dirty water, are you? Water that might be tainted with, oh, perhaps raw sewage? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Disposable plates and bowls can just be tossed into the fireplace or wood stove when you’re through with them. Flatware can be easily washed with very minimal water or you could set aside a couple boxes of plastic utensils.

We don’t have a warehouse store like Sam’s Club near us so I can’t speak to how cheap paper plates might be in places like that. For us, we stock up at Walgreen’s when they go on sale for $0.99. Used to be a package of 100 but that changed to a 72 count a few years back. Even so, a couple bucks will give you enough plates to last several days without a problem.

Dealing with trash post-collapse

Something to consider in your plans for a post-collapse situation is what to do with garbage. For most of us today, we just set it out at the curb for collection or take it to a dump ourselves. But services like trash collection will probably be one of the first to cease after a major crisis, at least for a while. For our purposes in this discussion, we’ll include recyclables in the trash category since that gets picked up by garbage collectors too.

I am sometimes truly amazed at how much trash a single family can generate in a week. I think my family does fairly well, all things considered, in that we barely fill one garbage can in a week’s time. Quite often, there are only two bags of trash in it. The recycling bin is usually pretty full though. Either way, not too bad for a family of five. I know other families with less people living in the house who generate twice or more the amount of trash in the same time frame.

Whether it is one bag a week or five, you need to plan ahead for what you’re going to do with it when it won’t just disappear each week.

Organic matter — compost, as long as it isn’t animal products like bones and meat scraps. For that stuff, bury it fairly deep to keep animals from digging it up.

Combustibles — cardboard, paper, etc. can all be burned either in the wood stove or a fire pit.

Plastics and metal — if possible, try to repurpose these. If you can’t figure out a way to reuse them, rinse them out and crush them flat. This will help to conserve space. If need be, you could bury it. If you go that route, do so well away from any water sources in case any of the chemicals in the plastics and such leak out into the soil.

A critical element here is to keep food-related trash in a pest-proof container until it can be disposed of properly. The last thing you want or need is a mouse or rat problem on top of everything else.

If you have a trash dump nearby, and the crisis goes on for a considerable length of time, you may be able to make arrangements with neighbors to haul trash on a rotating basis.

The Importance of Vitamins and Supplements

An item that is often overlooked in long-term prepping is supplements like multivitamins. For short-term emergencies, such as a blizzard trapping you at home for a few days, proper nutrition is generally not a huge concern. In fact, I often suggest that having comfort food like chips and other junk can help keep family members from going crazy. Forgetting the diet for a couple days can make a stressful situation a little easier to handle.

But when we look at long-term situations, such as epidemics or major natural disasters that result in substantial YO-YO time, we need to plan ahead for nutritional needs. This is particularly important to prevent illnesses like scurvy, which is indeed a real thing and not just something pirates talk about in the movies. Scurvy results from a deficiency in vitamin C and symptoms include lethargy, depression, spongy gums, and even bleeding from mucous membranes. The reason it became so associated with pirates is during long voyages at sea back in those days, sources of vitamin C were few.

I would encourage you to shop around and stock up on vitamins and supplements to help offset any nutritional deficiencies during long-term disasters. Depending on the nature of the emergency, you may not have unlimited resources for food. While it is important to keep bellies full of calories, you’ll need proper nutrition to keep your body running.

Great use for milk jugs

I’d bet that most of us probably have at least one empty or almost empty plastic milk jug in our home right now. Here’s a great way to repurpose one or two of them during an emergency.

I’ve talked before about the importance of having an LED headlamp. Assuming you followed my advice, during a power outage when you need some hands free ambient light for a room, here’s what you do.

Fill the milk jug with water. It need not be your stored potable water either. Any water will do. Close up the milk jug.

Wrap the headstrap from the headlamp around the milk jug in such a way that the light faces inward.

Turn on the light and voila!

headlamp jug water

While it would be fine to just leave it sitting on a table or counter top, you could also hang it from a sturdy plant hook using rope or a bungee cord.

Pretty nifty, hey?

Sheltering in Place

I’ve always maintained that bugging out from home is an absolute last resort in most cases. Exceptions would be evacuating ahead of a pending disaster, such as a hurricane. Then again though, that’s not really “bugging out,” at least not in the traditional sense.

In most situations, you are far better off staying at home. That’s where all your supplies are, for starters. While yes you should absolutely have bug out bags assembled, just in case, at home is where you’ll have enough food to last you at least a couple weeks, preferably a few months or more. You’re already intimately familiar with the area around your home. You know who lives nearby and you should be able to spot people who don’t “belong” in the area.

Building a bug out bag is a rite of passage for preppers. Often, it is one of the first things one does as they enter into the disaster readiness arena. Typically, a bug out bag can be put together at minimal cost, at least at the beginning. It also gives a great sense of accomplishment. You’re finally doing something to get better prepared.

However, that bug out bag is merely one small step. Once the bag is done, you need to work hard on getting your home ready. This means setting aside food, water, first aid gear, and other supplies to sustain you and your family during and after an emergency.

As we go forward through 2013, we’ll be talking a lot about home emergency kits, sheltering in place, and related topics. But, start thinking today about how prepared you would be if you were confined to quarters at home for an indefinite period of time. How long would you and your family last on just what you have at home right now?

Keeping Warm When The Power Is Out

One of the critical problems faced during a power outage in winter is keeping warm. Of course, if you have a wood stove or a fireplace, this isn’t as much of an issue, provided you have firewood available.

If you don’t have either of those, there are still several things you can do to keep warm.

First, bundle up. Layers work much better than just wearing one big coat. A knit hat will do wonders for keeping you warm as much of your body heat is lost through your head. Thick socks and mittens or gloves will keep your feet and hands warm.

When feasible, have family members pair up under blankets and comforters. This is when having good quality emergency blankets will be of great benefit. They will reflect back about 90% of your body heat.

Don’t overlook pets either. Keeping dogs and cats on your lap or next to you will give you quite a bit of warmth, as well as sharing your warmth with them.

It is best to keep everyone all in one room. If you cover the windows and doorways with hanging blankets, this will keep the body heat in the room. On average, the human body gives off about the same amount of heat as a 100 watt light bulb. By trapping this heat from a few people all in one room, you’ll go far in alleviating cold conditions.

A few lit candles in the room will also give off a bit of heat, as well as keeping things from getting too dark. Just be very careful where you put the candles so as to avoid accidents.

Do NOT try using any sort of open flame larger than a candle indoors. Do NOT use a propane or other gas heater without proper ventilation. Do NOT use your gas stove for heating the room. Any of these are just asking for bad things to happen.

Getting Started, Part 1 – The Basics

I had a request from a reader to discuss a bit on how to get started with prepping. It can indeed seem overwhelming when you’re just starting out. There’s so much to do, where does one begin?

As with many other aspects of life, it depends. For example, look at your budget. If you are independently wealthy and looking for a personal guide into the world of prepping, please email me direct. On the other hand, if you’re like the rest of us and have little money to spare, keep reading.

Start by setting aside extra food and water. Don’t worry right now about going out and buying specially packaged long-term foods. Just buy a bit more of what you already eat. If, for example, canned vegetables are on sale 5/$2.00 and you’d normally get five, pick up 10. To a degree, you’re playing the odds here. The chances of a short-term emergency happening, one that would require you to dig into your storage, is a lot more likely to happen than a long-term societal collapse situation. The idea is to stock up on things that will get you through if you were unable to go grocery shopping for a few days or weeks.

For water, store at least one gallon of water for each person in your family per day of the anticipated crisis. Start by putting aside enough for a couple days, then add to it gradually. Personally, I like to use the 7 gallon containers you can buy at sporting goods stores that are made for this purpose. While heavy, I can manage to move them around without too much trouble and it is easier than shifting around 2L bottles.

Next on the list is first aid and hygiene. Put together a decent first aid kit, keeping mind both the most likely injuries and illnesses you’re going to face as well as your own capabilities. It makes little sense to me to go out and buy a surgical kit if you have not the first clue how to use it. Stick with things like adhesive bandages, gauze pads of various sizes, elastic wraps, burn cream, antibiotic ointment, and pain relievers. Add in your favorite OTC meds for things like stomach upset. You’re not looking to do major surgery here, just keep people reasonably healthy until the crisis has passed.

Portable light is important. You have to be able to see what you’re doing, don’t you? LED flashlights are generally brighter and consume less energy than old fashioned flashlights. LED headlamps are great for when you’re doing necessary chores.

An area that is sometimes overlooked is entertainment. Netflix isn’t going to do you much good during a power outage. Invest in a few board games, decks of cards, and other such timeless activities.

In a later post, we’ll discuss this further, talking about things like bug out bags, evac kits, and making plans.

Diversifying Your Food Storage

When planning your long-term food storage plan, it is important to not concentrate on any one type of supply and instead spread out. In other words, don’t rely strictly upon canned goods purchased at the grocery store or just have buckets of rice and beans socked away for a rainy day.

Let’s look at the different options available to you.

1) Commercial canned goods: These are the canned food products you can buy at the grocery store. Veggies, fruit, and meat for the most part. Relatively inexpensive, moderate shelf life. The good thing is you can find these pretty much anywhere and picking up just a couple cans every time you go shopping won’t be a huge expense. The bad thing is if you are used to eating fresh food, canned veggies in particular will sometimes taste…off. The food can also get a bit mushy over time. In a crisis, that may not matter a whole lot though.

2) MREs and other pouch foods: Many of these taste great and are full of nutrition. But they are expensive. Buying them online is often cheaper than in the sporting goods department of your local retailer. These are great to have on hand for a short-term emergency but are usually too expensive to stockpile for a long-term solution to food needs.

3) Buckets of beans and rice: Very inexpensive and when stored properly will last years. Mix in a bit of meat and/or vegetables and you have a meal that will keep a belly full for a while. But, for those not accustomed to such meals, rice and beans two or three times a day can get old quick. Sure, you’ll survive but appetite fatigue may set in quickly.

4) Freeze-dried foods: These last darn near forever when stored properly and will provide quite a bit of variety for meals. But, they can be sort of pricey and for those not used to eating them, there may be a bit of a learning curve until the system gets used to the new food.

If you are planning for an extreme long-term event, you also need to look toward producing your own food through gardening and such. While even as long as a year or two is doable when it comes to food storage, stocking enough to provide for a family of four beyond that length of time may be a bit tough. Not impossible, just not a piece of cake.

As with any other aspect of prepping, I shy away from putting all my eggs in one basket. For food storage, diversify your preps. Have some canned goods and pouch foods for short-term emergencies as well as buckets of beans, rice, and freeze-dried goods for long-term use. Add heirloom seeds and other necessities for providing your own food further down the road.

Garden planning

My wife is buried about hip deep in seed catalogs lately. Laying out plans, mapping out new garden beds, deciding what she wants to grow where. When it comes to gardening, I’m the manual labor. I dig where she points.

Now is the time to get into the nitty gritty of garden planning. Ideally, you should be able to start some seedlings in the next few weeks. Years ago, I built a HUGE plant stand for my wife. About seven feet long and six feet high. Four shelves, each lit by two shop lights. The shelves are deep enough to accommodate the plastic trays you often get when you by plants by the flat. It is large and cumbersome, but it does the job very well. We put the lights on timers and drape the entire thing in plastic to keep heat in. By the time the ground is thawed and warm enough to plant, the seedlings are ready to go.

Having a garden allows you to provide your own food a lot cheaper than you will find it in the produce section of the grocery store. It is healthier as you know exactly what was put on those plants while they were growing–no nasty and gross pesticides. Maintaining the garden provides for some degree of exercise and gets you outside in the fresh air and sunshine.

Now is the time, folks. Get your garden planned and your seeds ordered before it gets too late to plant ’em.