How To Zero Your Preps, by G.W.D.

I’m sure by now most readers have had the opportunity to zero their rifle(s). (If you haven’t, please stop reading and do so now) When doing so, one of the first questions one must answer is, ”At what range should I zero?” Typically, we don’t know exactly at what range we will use our rifle, but we decide where to zero it based on two things, 1) What is the range of distances we want to be effective?, and 2) how far can we miss and still be effective? The answers to these two questions allow us to make some decisions about at what range we should zero our rifles. (Hang in there with me while I shift gears…)

Because her college campus (Hillsdale College) is closed presently, my oldest daughter is home and we have had some great discussions., recently. This morning we discussed an essay that she had recently written, where the topic was to compare and contrast how well certain virtues or abilities contribute to success during times of war versus times of peace. Her response essay included how society views preppers during times of normalcy versus times of uncertainty (i.e. coronavirus), and how the actions of preppers might seem strange or paranoid during regular times, but make a lot of sense during the times we are currently living through.

Without going into the weeds of our discussion, our takeaway was that we cannot only focus too far down the road for uncertainties, nor can we focus only on the present. It struck me that living a life of preparedness is not unlike choosing the sighting range for your rifle, we must decide how far down the road do we plan while also being effective in the short range. Regardless of the distance at which you zero, each comes with its own benefits and compromises.

As a husband and father of two sons and two daughters, each day I am faced with being both present in their lives, while leading us all as we prepare for our futures. It is a constant challenge to know how much energy I devote to the present vs. the future (and how far downrange). And arguably more important, how do I presently prepare my children to live in a way that prepares themselves for their own futures as adults, spouses, and parents. It has been a challenge to discern how far down the rabbit hole to take them in imagining what their future might hold. I don’t have the answer and I’m not sure I’ve done a stellar job, but time will tell.

At least as long as I can remember, I’ve been one that tends to focus on the future and at times, at the expense of the present. Being much more relational, my wife is quite the opposite and will often put the present needs of others before her own. I love her for this trait, as it is a gift I lack. Perhaps that may be one or two readers who can relate? For those of us who can see down the road farther, we must not lose sight of those in our midst that there is merit and value in their way also, the joy of living fully in the moment with others, taking the time to stop and enjoy the beauty of the moment and be in relationship. I have missed a lot of those “present” opportunities as I have prepared for their futures.

So, how then shall we live? This time of self-isolation has been one of growth and re-connection, for which I am grateful. It has opened my family’s eyes to what the world can and has become and has provided the context to have healthy discussions that might have been too forced before now. Rather than it being an opportunity to “be right”, it’s better for it to be a time to discuss honestly about the gaps in our preps so we can all work towards filling those gaps, whether it be through simple hard work or seeking alternatives. In a way, the lack of social distractions has allowed us to reconnect in ways that we have been unable to do before. For these things, I am grateful.

As we think about the future of our society and world, I think each of us has an idea of how this thing pans out, but no one knows 100%. I surely don’t, but I for one want to leverage this time, whether it be over in a few months (I very strongly doubt the economy or our constitutional republic will simply bounce back) or we continue the descent. But regardless of how it goes down, we should all take this time to leverage it to the best of our abilities. Here are some of my thoughts on how I (and perhaps you) might grow in this time:

  • Recalibrate with your family. If you’re shooting too high, adjust so you can meet them where they are. Encourage them with thought provoking discussions about where things are heading. Listen to their struggles and share yours humbly. I have found that humbly sharing a struggle connects in a way nothing else will.
  • Got food storage? We’ve had ours for 10 years and I wasn’t really sure if it was still any good, or if we could even cook a meal with it. Having just cracked into it, it has been fun to explore what life with food storage is like. It has had its challenges, but we’ve seen it as an opportunity to use some of it up while getting a better feel for what that might look like if stores closed. As a side note, I’ve been getting back into sourdough and it has been a great way to get the family on board with food storage, with fresh sourdough waffles or pancakes or muffins every morning.
  • Projects. We live on an old dairy that has a never ending list of projects to keep us out of trouble (and during bad weather, in trouble). I’ve taken this time to double down on some long overdue projects, while working along side my son who is learning a whole new set of skills. Some recent projects include: A new batch of chicks (egg layers), preparing for meat hens coming in a few weeks, structural reinforcements on the old barn, cleanup around the property, generator wiring, etc.
  • Organizing. I’ve had a bad habit of collecting preps with the thought that I’ll organize it all later. Well, now is that “later”. It does you no good to have something if you can’t actually find it. Have you ever needed to find a tool, and can’t find it because you keep them in five different places? I’ve decided that I’d rather have just one place and have to walk further, than to try to remember all the different places I’ve stashed things so I’d save the walk. I recently built a high hanging rack for yard tools and once I collected all the tools from around the property, I discovered we have enough yard tools for three ranches.
  • Honing skills. This is the corollary to organizing. Collecting preps without using them is not a good long term strategy. Maybe there’s some logic in the short run if we can’t get stuff, but now that I have the time, I need to start executing on some of these long range plans. Cooking out of home storage is one of my skills that we are actively working on.
  • Stewardship. Whether we think we have it good or we think we have it bad, we are all given something for which we are held accountable. I’ve told my kids countless times (you can ask them), that I’ve said: “It’s not about the hand you’re dealt, its about how you play the hand you’re dealt”. In a poker tournament, everyone is given the same number of chips, and every player gets good hands and bad hands. The player’s success comes not with getting good hands, but how they play both their good hands and their bad hands. We should treat each day as a gift and use it wisely, especially during this time. Don’t waste it.
  • Happiness. My grandmother was born in a sod house in Broken Bow, Nebraska and was the eleventh of twelve children. She lived through the Great Depression picking cotton across the south while married to an abusive alcoholic twenty years her senior. Turns out, she was just about the happiest person I have ever known, even though she had more to be unhappy about than most everyone. She would often say, “Happiness is just a decision.” During these times, we can choose to be unhappy or we can choose to be happy. It truly is just a decision.
  • Spiritual Growth. Listed last, but first in importance. If you don’t have a daily time in the Bible, then this is the time to start. And if you do, but don’t have regular times of connecting with your family spiritually, today is the day. I have found that my kids are shaken by this crisis and confused about the future of the world they thought they understood. We have had some great times of discussion and realization that we don’t know the future and the things of this world are truly uncertain. But there truly is a peace that comes when we know that there is no hope in this world, but that the only true hope comes from God above and that he is our provider. He gives us a brain and a back and hands to work with, but He is truly our provider.

Wishing you all the best.


  1. A very good point indeed. My calculations have always balanced cost, storage space, portability and severity of the potential threats. To save a lot of time and space, I landed with 90 days meaning an absolute 90-day, no-other-supplies, don’t leave your secured ground 90 day lockdown. Think about it. This would be something more severe than a fast-moving pandemic and more severe than any kind of storm or even local disruption has occurred. Anything that exceeds a 90-day lockdown is a truly severe occurrence and there is simply no planning for anything that severe. If it is local, you need to leave, hence the portability factor.

    I know some scenarios like social unrest or the “slow apocalypse” can last longer than 90 days. In those situations, food and some supplies will be intermittently available, perhaps at some risk. This will stretch the stores longer and possibly much longer. It’s all a judgment call based on your situation and your perceived risk.

  2. Man, are you thoughtfully writing for a time we are in. One – God is in this time as much as any. And the good or happiness or joy we have is always a choice to do with what we are given. Because life is a gift.
    Your analogy of focusing is beautiful and as a man I’m guilty. We are called to envision the direction our family needs and lead by example. However, being too much a Martha and not enough of a Mary doesn’t lend itself to appreciating the beauty of relationships. Our Creator and our family both desire us to cultivate this skill. Hand well played ~ Aces & Eights.

    1. G.W.D., i agre with you and CORD7.

      First, I so appreciate this from the article: Rather than it being an opportunity to “be right”, it’s better for it to be a time to discuss honestly about the gaps in our preps so we can all work towards filling those gaps, whether it be through simple hard work or seeking alternatives.

      I’m wondering how you came to that realization about the shallowness of “being right”. We men certainly have been taught to hang our hat on “being right” as a way of being.

      The CORD7, you advise balance: However, being too much a Martha and not enough of a Mary doesn’t lend itself to appreciating the beauty of relationships.

      I am grateful to have the wisdom you both bring into my mornng.

      Carry on, in grace

  3. Excellent points, since successful prepping is not just about the THINGS we accumulate, but our day-to-day BEHAVIORS and THOUGHTS. Thanks for keeping our sights on the right horizon.

  4. Hey G.W.D. great article. By far, the most wisdom packed into the fewest words I’ve seen in a long time.

    On “organizing,” the best thing I’ve done for myself in this category in years was a Swedish Death Cleaning last summer, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. We have SO much useless clutter in our lives. I basically went through everything I own while thinking, “When I’m dead, what will my kids do with this?” A ton of stuff went to Goodwill. Anything that I was going to give to my kids/grandkids I gave to them on their next visit or got boxed up and sent to them. A lot of stuff went into the burn pile. It was very liberating and opened up more storage space for useful things like food and my beekeeping supplies that need to be kept in the house and not in a shed. And there’s a whole lot less junk to look through when I’m trying to find something now.

    I too have enough yard and garden tools for three homesteads, but those are going to be needed if the SHTF so they are stored in the garden shed in the “extras” section.

    I love your grandma’s philosophy, “Happiness is a decision,” and I’ve noticed having a cat or a dog makes the decision easier. 🙂

    1. St Funogas,

      Swedish Death Cleaning! Love It!
      I’m totally gonna do this. Now if I could just get hubby on board.

      Maybe he will come around when he sees me start purging.

      I’ve actually started doing some of this at mom and dads but I have to be careful, they are in their 80’s so I do it a little at a time so they don’t think I’m cleaning them out.
      I did find three older pistols in dads dresser drawer. I have to figure out what they are as they will be mine sometime in the not so distant future.
      I’m excited about researching these. Who knows, maybe they are real gems as Dad was a top competitive shooter in the 60’s & 70’s (Retired Police after 35 years of service).

      Take care and have a Rockin great day

      1. RKRGRL68, since I have become quite fond of you, I offer unsolicited advice.

        I strongly encourage you to practice OPSEC very stringently regarding the firearms.

        They are the item most likely to lead to a violent burglery. Even telling one person easily leads to a casual comment leading to an exagerrated story leading to a painful outcome. Also, unless you have a trustworthy gunsafe, store them dismantled, with parts in separate places. Make them useless to a thief.

        Carry on, in grace

        1. Once a Marine,

          I’m always receptive to the advice that you offer me as I have a great deal of respect for you!!

          I’m taking your advice and I will be moving these items to my secure safe at my home and at some point I will see what I have
          I’m the only person that knows about these. My husband doesn’t even know of them. The reason for this is as you described above. these items are something that belong to my father and they are not in a secure setting right now and that concerns me. With dad having memory & sometimes mobility issues it’s not safe for him to be around them unsecured so your advice is actually prudent.
          In our state you also are required to have a valid FOID card. Dad hasn’t renewed his in a few years but I have a valid card.

          Thank you for always thinking of me, I appreciate your friendship. I love reading your posts, the thoughts you have always make me stop and ponder in ways that I didn’t consider

          Have a Rockin great day

          1. Thanks for your kind words, RKRGRL68.

            Please be aware the although your husband doesn’t know, anybody who reads this blog does. And yes, even as I count on our being able to maintain a certain anonymity through this site, I assume very little. At the same time, you may note as Lily and JWR do, I never say what state I live in or offer any details that could give someone who means harm a clue. Perhaps I am over cautious. I’ll live with that.

            Carry on, in grace

  5. Thank you. Your words and comparison to Zero have helped me to step back and examine the whole kit and kaboodle along with some things I’ve been neglecting. Even though 4/5ths of my kids are off in distant locations, they are not alone. Just the same, I have a new opportunity to talk to them about topics previously untouched.

  6. I appreciate the “balanced” approach. It seems often hard to hit the middle ground when endeavoring to be prepared. Also since my husband loves guns I appreciated the gun references. As a side note, I can’t see how we can escape great inflation in the next few months since we’re busy printing all this empty money. So, if you’re at all able to, start getting extra of your basic items. Meat will probably be an issue , so you have a freezer you might consider getting more now. The more you can get now then the more room you’ll have in purchasing future items since prices are very likely to increase. Also, if you’re able to pressure can getting markdown meat ( you can usually find it at the meat department early in the morning,It just looks a little darker )canning it will come in handy .

  7. Thank you, GWD! This was an entirely delightful article with tremendous wisdom and perspective. We enjoyed it thoroughly start to finish!

    Life is a gift. In the good times. In the harder times. Life is a gift, and we are so very blessed for it. On our homestead, we are using this time also for much of what you’ve described… We continue to deepen our relationships with one another, and with God. We’re assessing and reassessing our supplies, and back-filling those in so far as this is safely possible. We’re engaged in spring cleaning and organizing. We’re problem solving along the way as we work through projects including maintenance, repairs, and improvements. We are living in the present while also keeping an eye to the future — understanding that life is both fragile and sturdy, and time is both long and short.

    Remain steady. Be safe. Stay well everyone!

    1. Telesilla, you have contributed your own wisdom: We are living in the present while also keeping an eye to the future — understanding that life is both fragile and sturdy, and time is both long and short.

      I often enjoy your posts.

      Carry on, in grace

  8. Dear GWD/How to Zero Your Preps –

    I read your article this morning over coffee. I read it again slowly. I read it again. I shared it with my husband and then the rest of our family.

    We cannot thank you enough for your article (and this terrific venue it is posted on). What a beautiful thoughtful engaging challenging reflective assembly of words with a message.

    T.R. and family

  9. Fabulous! I was just pondering some of these very issues last night so I’m amazed at the timeliness of this article.

    PS: Congratulations on having a daughter at Hillsdale! Most excellent!

  10. What a great article. Thank you for taking the time to write it. “happiness is just a decision”. Great stuff.

    Hope you will follow up with other articles.


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