Describing how teenagers can contribute to and have the right attitude for family prepping. (Written by a teenager for teenagers.)
As a teenage prepper my top priority is making sure my family and I will survive a natural or man-made disaster, and prepping is how I do that. Prepping is a family affair around my house, each of us have our items or category (medical, food, garden, hunting, etc) that we are responsible for prepping and stocking up and we carry-out that responsibility to the fullest. If one of us doesn't do our job, in an TEOTWAWKI situation, it could cost us our lives. So in this article I am going to tell you what this teenager does and give some advice of what my fellow teenagers can do to contribute to your or your family's prepping.
Note: An important phrase I will use often throughout this article is "two is one and one is none". That phrase means that whatever you have, it is best to have two, rather than one, of that item. If you run out of or break one thing, whether it be a fire starter, a baby bottle, a shovel, or a gun, you will have a back up, if you have two. If you only have one of that item and that one item breaks, then it could mean your or your family's safety. So, remember: two is one and one is none.
Though humans can go for weeks without food and still survive, I don't want to think that my family and I might go hungry, so I'll start with how my family and I prep food.
A garden is the best and cheapest thing to have to preserve your own food and though it may be a little more work, it's worth it. My mom loves to can. She would be canning all day everyday if she had the time and food. It's a lot of work for just one person, so that's where I come in. When many people think of themselves canning some may say, "Oh, I could never do something that difficult!" or "Oh, isn't that dangerous?". Everyone knows someone that has had some sort of traumatic experience with a pressure canner. Believe me, we've heard the stories. Actually it isn't all that difficult, just time consuming. And it isn't all that dangerous if you follow instructions or get someone that is experienced in canning to "show you the ropes". Canning is almost as simple as making a stew. Chop your vegetables (or meat, whatever you are canning) and put them in a jar, fill the jar with water, add a little salt, put them in the canner and "cook" them. Now, don't go in there and do exactly what I just said, there are a few more steps than just that, but that's how you do it in a nut shell. Vegetables and meat aren't the only things we can; you can put up meat, fruit, jams and jellies, pasta sauces, soups and chili, and so much more. And, whatever you can/preserve will last a long time. How awesome is that? We love to can soups and chili because that's a complete meal in just one jar. If you have 365 jars of soup then you have got yourself one meal a day for a year! In a disaster situation, one meal will be like gold!
Now if canning still makes you a bit nervous, fear not, for there are others options. Store-bought food. My mom and I are always looking for food sales and when we find them, we rack up on whatever is on sale. Whether it be green beans, juice, chicken noodle soup or ramen noodles, it's all 'prep-able', as I say. Store-bought food is ideal for stocking since it isn't easily damaged, where home-canned food jars can break. We are friends with the owners of our local Butcher's Shop. Normally, when their meat is nearing the expiration date, they will put it straight into the freezer to take home for themselves. He sells us that meat for half price. We go every so often to buy up as much as we can afford then we bring it home to can it.
Did you know you can also stock up on things such as crackers, coconut, cereal, chocolate chips and other dry foods that you might think would go stale or dry out? Yeah! We use a FoodSaver with a mason jar attachment. Just stick the food into a mason jar and put a flat on it, then put the jar sealer attachment on the jar and press down on the machine as if you were vacuum sealing a bag of food, and wa la! The jar sealer vacuums out all the air, making it last a very long time. We have eaten cereal and crackers recently that we sealed a very long time ago and it was all still as crispy and fresh as the day we bought them.
Inventory, Rotating, & Hiding
When prepping, inventory, rotating, and hiding is one of the most important things for our family. Inventory is important because you want to know how much of everything you have and what you need. My mom and I are usually the ones who inventory all our stock, and we do it every few weeks. Any time we buy something new to add or take something out, we make sure to mark it down. We have a couple folders and notebooks designated especially for our prepping inventory. To make the job easier for the next time we do inventory, once we have inventoried something, we use a marker to make a mark on the label or top of the can/box, so the next time we take inventory, if there isn't a highlighter mark, we know we missed that one. We also write the dates on all our food, then rotate them every so often. You always want the oldest food in the front, to use up first, even with your home-canned food. It's my and my brother's job to find hiding places for our stock stuff. It's crazy some of the places that you can find to store your stock. When finding a place to store/hide your home-canned stock food you want to make sure it's a cool dark place. In the basement, in the closet, under the beds, places that don't get too hot or too cold. I know from experience that if your home-canned food gets too hot, it will unseal, if it gets too cold, it will burst. When it comes to storing/hiding non-food items, it's not so difficult. Medical supplies, hygiene items, and clothes don't have to have such care. As long as they are out of the weather and sealed to keep out moth, pretty much any where is a good place. Under the bed, top of the closet, etc. Secret hiding places around your house that only you and your family know of are ideal.
Make a Food Chart
It's a great idea to make a chart of how much food your family eats in a year. Calculating how many meals of what you want to stock up on. How many seasoning packets, how many packs of crackers, how many jars of cereal, or how many jars of tomatoes you will need. Our family has a list of several of our favorite meals that we want to have in a disaster situation. Just say you are trying to store enough food for one year and you want to have the same meal once a week for that year. Start out by making a list of everything that goes into prepping that meal. Include everything down to the seasonings. Then buy 52 of those items. Our family of four (two adults and two teens) can eat one box of spaghetti with one quart jar of sauce per dinner. That means we vacuum sealed at least 52 quarts of spaghetti noodles and canned at least 52 quarts of sauce. We also have 52 packs of seasoning sauce (Save-a-Lot food store 3/$1.00). So you would do that with each meal you want to have. You get the idea.
"Two-thirds of the human body (by weight) consists of water. Humans need water for circulation, respiration, and converting food to energy. After oxygen, water is the body’s most important nutrient. Quite simply, you need water to live. Your body loses water constantly through sweat, urine, and even breathing. You must replace the water your body loses for your organs to continue to work properly. Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough water, because you’re losing more water than you’re taking in. In extreme heat, an adult can lose almost half-a-gallon of water through sweat alone. Without water, dehydration can set in within an hour in severe heat. The combination of physical overexertion and extreme heat — without water — can lead to death in as little as several hours. Surprisingly, it’s also easy to become dehydrated in very cold environments. Since cold air cannot hold much moisture, it dehydrates your body with every breath you take. Even if you aren’t sweating, you still need to replenish fluids even in cold weather. So how long can you survive without water? Humans in average shape and perfect conditions (not too hot or cold) can probably live for three to five days without any water if they’re not physically exerting themselves. Healthier people can live a day or so longer, while those who are unhealthy or exposed to particularly hot or cold weather may not survive as long. To stay healthy, you need to continually replenish your fluid supply. Experts recommend drinking approximately two quarts (64 ounces) of water each day. Of course, if you live in an extremely hot or cold area — or if you exercise a lot — you may need to drink a gallon or more of water every day. See: How Much Water Do You Need To Survive?
So as you can see from the excerpt above, we must have water! So let's talking about stocking some water. If you are like my family and don't have access to a working well then you can stock water by buying bottled water or you can even bottle your own. We use milk jugs and 2-liter bottles. Large drums are often used (you can see one in the tv show "Doomsday Castle: Water From a Rock"). A Berkey would be a wise investment if you can afford one. One reason we love the Berkey is that no matter where we have to get our water, we can always have clean and clear water to consume. GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) and water purification tablets are good to have to purify water that you aren't sure is safe to drink. We have both GSE and the tablets, that way if we run out of one we still have the other. Remember: two is one and one is none.
When it's time for our weekly shopping trip, it's a family affair. We all load up and head to town. We each have our list of things we are responsible for prepping so when we go into a store or stop at a yard sale, we scatter to all different directions looking for the items on our list. Some things must be bought brand new, but not all things. What do I mean by that? Things such as clothes, shoes, garden tools, sometimes even guns that have been taken care of, a good EDC bag, and so much more can be bought at places like the thrift store, yard sales or garage sales. Would you buy used guns? Yes, we have before. Most times it's elderly people or ex-military who sale them at garage sales and they have been well taken care of. Most often we can buy them for less than what you would pay for them buying it brand new, but remember: two is one and one is none.
When most people think of prepping they think physical items (i.e. water, food, clothing, guns, ammo, etc), but we have to not only prep those things, we must also prepare ourselves. In an TEOTWAWKI situation we will not have access to things like in normal days. Clothing stores, hospitals, etc. So we must learn how to do these things.
In disaster days we will most likely not have access to a hospital. If you or a family member were to injure yourself you would need to know how to tend to the wound (as in the book "Patriots" by James Wesley Rawles). You would need to stock up on the material needed to tend to injuries, such as: gauze, bandages, pain medication, suture kit, etc. Sanitary napkins are a great absorbers for blood and would be perfect for serious injuries that need something to stop the blood flow. You don't have to become a nurse or doctor, but if you know someone or have a family member who is in the medical profession if would be a good idea to asked him/her to show you basic first aid, how to suture, perform CPR, how to stop bleeding, etc. My mom's brother is a doctor and we have asked him to show us many things that we would need to know. I am also training to become a midwife, so we know (and are learning) what to do with most injuries and child-birth. Most times you can't just go out and buy pain medications or antibiotics unless you have a prescription for them. So how will you stock the medicine needed? If you have medicine left over from the last time you were sick don't just leave it or throw it away, stock it! Natural medicines such as Essential Oils and Herbs are also wonderful medicines. I know from experience that most times they work just as well if not better than man-made medications. It wouldn't be bad to have both herbs and man made medicines. Remember: two is one and one is none. You can find herbs growing just about anywhere, so study up on your naturals medicines so that you know what to get when you need it.
Know How to Handle a Gun
It is very important, especially for us ladies, to know how to handle a gun. In James Wesley Rawles' novels "Patriots" and "Survivors" all the women knew how to handle a gun and if they didn't, they had to learn. We must be comfortable enough around them and know enough about them to be able to shoot them when we need to. You should learn how to handle, care for, load and shoot a gun. One day your life (or someone else's) may depend on it, whether it be for the use of self-defense, protection for your family or to protect your food. Don't be afraid of the gun, but give it the respect it needs. Once you know how to safely handle and care for a gun, you can show others how to as well.
Physically and Mentally Fit
Yes, we must be prepared with our stock items, but we must also prepare our bodies by getting fit, mentally and physically. You never know when you will have to bug-out and carry a heavy BOB or run for a while. You don't want to be caught or slow others down because you can't keep up. While our bodies must be fit we must also prepare our minds. We must have the Prepper's mind-set. Why do we prepare? Because we know something is going to happen and we want to be ready for it in every way. If the crap hits the fan and we blow our top freaking out like everyone around us, that will just get you lost or killed. You have more of a chance of survival if you keep a cool, calm, and collected head on you. Remember, you knew it was going to happen, so why freak out? When you stay calm, you can keep the others around you calm. There should always be one person who knows what to do, so why not let that person be you?
Soap and Body Care Products
So now that you have your water stocked and you can shower and wash clothes you need soap, right? Of course you can always buy soap to stock but what if that's something you forgot or you run out? So what do you do? You make your own. We absolutely love to make soaps and body-care products. Laundry soap can be made from things around your house such as bar soap, borax and baking soda (see the article in SurvivalBlog by J.D.C. in Mississippi that gives very clear instructions on how to make laundry soap. You can also make your own body soap, conditioner, shampoo, lotion, etc. They are so easy and such fun to make. All these things can be made with one person or many! There are millions of tutorials and recipes all over the internet and YouTube. All you have to do is pick one out and go make it! It can be much cheaper, a lot of fun, and it's healthier for you! We recently made another batch of soap that made 30 bars. It cost us only about $5! I don't know of anywhere you can buy homemade healthy soap at that price. Don't forget to stock up on lye. We buy ours very cheap from an Amish friend ($11/gallon).
Knitting, Crocheting, and Sewing Your Own Clothes
I love to knit, crochet and sew in my spare time. It's so easy and a lot of fun. You can find the materials needed at most any store and often at yard sales, thrift store, and sometimes people even give the stuff away. As long as you know the basic stitches and have the concept of how to do it, you can make most anything. During winter time blankets, hats, mittens, and scarves are a must. You can make all those things, you just have to have the some yarn, a crocheting hook and know how. It can sometimes be much cheaper as well. And it help pass the time away when there is nothing else to do (wink).
(Ladies) Prepping for the Monthly Cycle
I know many of us ladies including myself have, at some point in time, wondered what we will do when that monthly visitor arrives in a disaster situation. So what do you do? You stock some! When you have a little extra cash, buy an extra pack of your preferred item. But what about when you run out? You can make your own. I know what you are thinking, gross, right? Well, when the world is in a chaotic state and you run out, those homemade sanitary napkins are gonna look pretty darn good. They are much more sanitary than one might think. They are reusable and last years so you wouldn't need many. There are so many different styles, patterns, and materials out there all you have to do is pick one. I have made them before and they are very easy to make at home or you can buy them yourselves (the most popular ones you can buy are Luna-Pads). You can try out different ones now so that you will know what will work best for you when the times comes that you need them.
Last, I want to mention something our family is working on full-time. There are tons of tutorials online in the form of video, pictures, or text. However, when we have no electricity none of it will be accessible. Now is the time to get all the the tutorial, instructions, recipes, etc printed out and neatly organized into a binder. Every time the family gives a "thumbs up" to a new recipe my mom or I try, two copies are printed or written in a binder that moment. No waiting. Remember: two is one and one is none. One important bit of information we have printed and filed is a conversion chart. It has everything from weights and measures to equivalents to substitutions. Although we copied this from a very old cookbook, I'm sure all of this information is online as well. Check out: Cooking Resources: Cooking Measurement Conversion, Ingredient Substitution, and More.
So there you have it, the answer to the question "How Can Teens Contribute?" Prepping can be a lot of fun especially when you get the whole family involved. When you are a prepper and have the mind-set of a prepper it will encourage others around you to get ready for whatever disaster may happen. I hope that you, my fellow teens, have learned something from this and have been encouraged.