A Widow’s View of Preparedness, by Catherine T.

I am a widow of over three years whose youngest son was serving our country in the Middle East when my husband’s death happened.  My husband lost his job and was forced into early retirement before his death.  I will not go into the details of all the turmoil then and of having a child home with injuries of war.  In a SHTF situation there will be many people with war injuries in our own neighborhoods.  My other children and I are so glad he is still alive.  My income dropped further not long after this.   It was the end of the world as I knew it mixed in the downward spiraling economy. I cannot move from this area.  I live in the country near cities.  I have grandchildren and children who will no doubt come here if cities rapidly become uninhabitable.  For several it is within walking distance if they must walk, about 13 miles. I can only think of how living in a heavily populated area can work to my advantage.  Buying and storing bulk foods is not an option.  Here is how I am surviving and preparing for a future on a fixed income.

I will be doubling the size of my garden this coming spring.  Weather from the drought literally scorched the ground this past summer.  I planted lettuce over and over never to see it raise from the ground. That is just one example of what the drought did to my garden. I am sixty years old today and have never seen anything like the weather this past summer.  Horrible and truly scary but now I only see it as a lesson for future gardening and for the times when my garden may be raided. I have to think outside the box. I now have a simple irrigation system to help through another drought. My garden is located on the back of my property so I may plow for another garden closer to my house.  Two better than one.  Though I have plenty of seed for my garden needs, I will be buying extra seed for barter and trying to save more heirloom seeds than I do now.  I am using a hoe for weeding instead of a tiller.  I can plant more this way and keep in shape at the same time.  Gardening is the best summer gym!  I can barter fresh produce. For now, winter is just a stone’s throw away yet I can walk to my garden and pick greens I planted late in summer when the drought was over.  Asian greens, an onion, pepper, mushrooms with other vegetables and a chicken breast cooked in a stir fry over organic brown rice is a cheap and healthy meal, especially if the veggies come from the garden.  A chicken breast from the grocer can be replaced by a squirrel.

I have two grain mills I purchased since my husband’s passing.  One mill is a used hand mill I paid ten dollars for and the other a small electric Blendtec I purchased from Amazon.com.  Since I live in an area of corn, grain and soybean fields I hope I will be able to bargain {barter} with local farmers for grains to use in my mills.  I ordered a large bag of organic wheat from a local health food store a while back and the bread is delicious made with fresh milled grain. Trading fresh bread or produce for grains will be an option. 
 I have two woodstoves.  I heat my home with the one in the basement and the other is in my garage/workshop. Most of my 8 acres is wooded so I will not be cold in winter.   I could barter extra wood for food, gas etc.  I pile brush from cut trees to attract quail that are coming back into this area.

I can cook over a fire when I run out of fuel for Coleman Cook Stove during blackouts.  I keep two Coleman outdoor stoves plus one of their ovens to place on top the burners for baking. Coleman ovens can be purchased for around forty bucks.  Once I thought of outdoor stoves only for camping.  Several years ago the tail winds of Hurricane Ike helped me prepare for days of no electric.  That hurricane was a true wake up call!

Many homeowners in my area have ponds.  I can barter for fresh fish.  I really need to have a pond built on my place.  That is something to think about for the future.  I advise anyone with the acreage to build a pond.  There will be no fresh or frozen fish if electric is out for weeks.  A pond will provide fresh bluegill, bass, crappie, catfish etc.
I do not have chickens.  I buy eggs from a couple neighbors when they have extra eggs.  Again, I can barter for eggs. 

This area is abundant with deer.  I have deer in the freezer.   Deer would be scarce in a collapsed society but I would still have a few around my property plus other wildlife.   Again, think barter.
Double coupon for groceries and other products.  It is a pain to categorize coupons cut from newspapers but it is a must when economizing.  I use envelopes for coupons in a small folder.  My canned section of the folder has envelopes for canned soup, veggies, condiments, meats, salad dressings etc.  The health section has individual envelopes for cold medicines, band aids and salve section of drug store, shampoos, etc.  The list goes on for dairy products, frozen foods, cereal brands, ethic foods such as Italian, Chinese etc.  Sometimes you can buy food for little or it may be free after couponing. 
 Catch the sales.  Since most of the garden burned this summer I purchased canned veggies at 25 cents per can early this fall.  There was no limit so was I able to store over 200 cans in my basement until the garden comes in next summer.  By Thanksgiving canned vegetables were more than twice that price when on sale.  A vegetable stand in a nearby city sells 50 pound boxes of potatoes at half the price of 10 pound bags in the local produce section of big chain grocers.  They will store well in the garage until zero weather hits then I will bring them into the basement. 

I have a lot of designer clothes in my closet from Goodwill [thrift] stores.  I constantly receive compliments on clothes I pay little for.  I try to buy when there is a half price sale.  My hiking boots are a name brand I purchased at a Goodwill Store still in their box.  I have a juicer, DVD/VHS player, steam canner, cook books and much more at a fraction of the new price purchased from Goodwill, Salvation Army and other second hand stores.  I do not make special trips to town for shopping.  When I go to work in town I always run several errands to keep from wasting gas.  An extra trip to town for a single item is unaffordable.

Eating out is a definite no, if possible.  If I do, I use coupons or use the dollar menu at a drive-thru.  I keep snacks in my desk at work.  I make 24 pizzas at a time using a #12 can of pizza sauce, bread flour from a 25 lb bag from GFS, two 5 lb. bags of cheese, salt, yeast purchased in bulk at GFS and olive oil.  I mix the dough in four used bread machines purchased for few dollars each.  Add ingredients such as pepperoni on top before placing in oven.  Grandkids and guests love the pizzas made for less than two bucks.  It is hard work for one half day but worth it.   Three pizzas can be made with one small jar of pizza sauce if you are not up to making 24 at one time.  Beats paying fifteen bucks for a single deluxe pizza.

One of the grocers where I shop gives discounts on gas at the pump.  Some months I can save up to 30 cents per gallon.  I sold a vehicle I loved for one that is more economical to drive.  The increase in mileage per gallon has saved me.  I paid cash $3,500 for the vehicle.  This way I will not have to make payments that would amount to several hundred dollars per month for a vehicle to drive.  If I have to sell my present vehicle and drop down to a $1,000 vehicle it can be done if need be.  There are good deals out there for good used cars that have former owners with a good track record taking care of their vehicles.  It took a while for me to find one and drove my granddaughter’s car a couple weeks before finding my deal.  I borrowed her car before she got her license. 

Most important are personal relationships.  My neighbors and I have never held a meeting as a survival group.  I have been lucky through our conversations that many of us are like minded and we will be there for one another when needed.  I am a private person for the most part and so are my neighbors or we would not be living where we live.  I know by their lifestyles I can barter with them.  I have skills, they have skills.  We can complement each other.  Further on relationships, as a widow I chose not to pursue a relationship with a man.  I decided if God chose to send someone my way it would happen.  I went about my life with all its problems and I have had many the past years.  Well, God did send someone in my life most unexpectedly.  He is a widower who hunts, can fix nearly anything, has grandchildren and has not run when problems in my family have seemed overwhelming for me as when two of my children were sick.  That is important.  When a person’s world falls apart, patience for any type situation must be in order or a relationship will not survive. I was not progressing past my husband’s death as I should have.   I am healing and the new man in my life has been a big part of that process.  Again, if you find yourself single for any reason please take your time getting into a new relationship with one of the opposite sex.  You need the breathing time to catch up with knowing yourself again as single and go from there.  I would certainly have sabotaged a relationship had I started dating too soon after losing my spouse.

I also want to point out that we live in a society that falls apart after a few days without electricity.  Other traumatic events will spur post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD )in the best of us.  Part of my survival experience the past three years is with a person with PTSD in my life.  In a world spinning out of control all of us need to become well read understanding what war and a society falling apart does to the human psyche.   Please read and find out all you can about the emotional fallouts caused against individuals before, during and after war and societal unrest.  It may mean the survival of a child, grandchild or a dear friend.
Two of my grandchildren cannot play outside their condo in a nearby city because of crime.  Crime is everywhere, even in the countryside where I live but children can play on my land.  I keep a swing set, plenty of toys, bikes, games, a pool table in my basement, scissors, paper and more for children.  If I can eventually afford an above ground pool I will have one for grandchildren to enjoy.  Such things relieve stress in children and is good exercise.   There is always a small pile of brush needed burning for marshmallow roasting on my place.  I have been purchasing VHS tape movies for 50 cents to a dollar and stocking up.  Games for children help too.  I dedicated a room in my basement to sewing and crafts.  Small things costing little mean a lot to small children during times as these.

I have guns and ammo in a safe.   My family has lived in this area a long time and most around here know I have guns.  I am left alone as far as thefts go, so far.  My safe is tied into the floor joists of my house.  Presently it would take a chain saw to remove it in less than an hour’s time, not within the five or so minute time frame of local thieves.  At my husband’s death my oldest son drove in from Colorado and picked up my youngest son at the airport.  They bought the safe on their way home from the airport and installed it.  My own sons and daughters have helped me make it to today.  I do not know what I would have done without them.  Sure, we have our problems and disagreements from time to time but we are tight, regardless.

As you can see my preparedness is quite cheap and simple.  I would love to have solar panels for electric and more for the future but economics limits the extremes I would love to go with.  My small generator would run my freezer long enough to can frozen meat over a gas grill burner.  Would not want to do that but I could if need be.  Boundaries as lack of funds keep me thinking outside the box.
The best preparing is letting God be in control.  It is unbelievable at the situations I have found myself in to come up with funds to pay bills.  One time a check came in the mail within minutes I urgently needed to pay bill.  I have been humbled many times by the grace of God these past years.  No one is perfect and all of us make mistakes, some quite terrible but God is there regardless if we let him in our lives.  He helps us prepare if we let him.

Years before my husband’s death we took an extreme cut in income.  I was upset and could not understand why God was letting this happen to us.  Little did I know we were being prepared for a further loss of income.  When an economic fire storm hit the area we lived in we were a great deal more prepared to face the music than most because we had already had to live through that loss.  So the problems you have today may be God’s way of preparing you for the future. 

I have been watching the evening news more often as of late.  It is unbelievable the amount of shootings, stabbings, robberies and home invasions taking place in the area I live.  It will continue in this direction for many years to come.  I cannot move as I stated once before.  For economic and family reasons I will remain here and sit it out.  I search the web and stores like Goodwill for items that can be purchased at prices I can afford to make life more comfortable the coming years.  I know the fire storm is coming.  One of my grandfathers of many generations past was one of the first white men to come down the Ohio River to the lands of Kentucky.  I love reading the history of our country and I know we are headed for rough waters.  It cannot be stopped at this point regardless of who is in charge in Washington.  It is too late. We may remain the United States of America but it will be an entirely different landscape.  Practice preparing. Prepare as best possible with what you have, even if it is only a tomato plant in an Earth Box on your condo patio.