Each of us has our own trials, these need not keep us from accomplishing what is necessary. For the sake of you, the reader, my disability began when I was 11 years old with a major single-car accident. My spine decided to advance to Grade IV spondylolisthesis, it was not until I was in my late 20s that I found out it was congenital on my mother’s side. That said, after a few surgeries, months in the hospital, traction, full-body casts and learning to walk again, I decided to move forward with my life. I worked for close to two decades in a variety of fields, most including relatively hard physical labor. In 2007 my left leg stopped working and I was diagnosed with grade V, the end result is a fully physically disabled individual.
My wife and two amazing children have been a Godsend to my life. P is for the perseverance of the Saints, and in my experience perseverance is not limited only to one’s spiritual self. So, how do I prep for my family of four with a total income under $17,000 USD, annually?
Garden: your local area will have gardening groups, I use local chapters of the Extension Master Gardener – we have limited space and therefore apply container gardening approaches whenever possible. We grow sweet potatoes as well as two or three other varieties of potatoes. These offer nutrition and generally large returns, regardless of location. In addition, we grow a few other items that help offset food needs. You really do want a good size (10 square feet) compost pit. This comes in handy for feed needs with chickens as well! We grow earthworms in the compost and encourage bugs as well, also, we put all food scraps into the compost. Not everyone will agree, but, the compost we have is quite rich and very healthy! Be willing to learn and adjust your approaches as needed.
Chickens, Goats or Rabbits
I cannot stress enough the importance of raising your own protein. For we who are limited in funds, chickens, goats and rabbits are pound-for-pound the best return on your money. They are also relatively easy to raise and keep even with limited space. We raise Amaracauna and Rhode Island Red breeds. However Leghorns are amazing as well. With one Rooster and 6 or 7 layers we stay quite healthy. We also raise Belgian rabbits. With two breeders and a stud, our freezer stays quite full. If you are buying chicks or kits understand you will lose maybe 1 for every 5 you buy before they are large enough to eat. While a bit sad, it actually strengthens the warren or flock to lose the weaker ones.
As for care, there are dozens of freely available books on raising, feeding, and preparing this livestock. Due to current limitations in space we do not have goats, however, have raised Nubians and a few other breeds in the past. Overall these creatures are easy to care for, and produce quite well with decent feed. Let the older animals raise the young, unless you are starting from scratch, in that case raise them to 2-to-4 weeks old with regular checks and a good mash. Once they are adults, let them raise the next batches!
Dry goods stores, including food: Go to local farmers markets, and do as much yard sale, garage sale shopping as you can afford. We have found all of our sleeping bags, tents and most of our camping/alternative fuel gear by doing this. Any food you purchase that can be canned, and most can be, get to it! Canning is not difficult to get into, and while there are endless debates as to the benefits of water bath overpressure canning, our preferred approach is pressure canning.
Obviously, some things cannot be pressure canned, however, you can buy a relatively inexpensive canning setup for under $200. Ours was purchased more than 10 years ago and we use it several times a month during harvest season. There are several solid canning setups available, shop around, I believe there are some linked here as well! We do purchase canned and frozen fresh foods as well to offset what cannot be locally produced for us.
If you make sure cans are not dented and rotate them oldest in front, keep them in a controlled environment at room temperatures and you can eat them well after the shelf life mentioned on the cans. Purchase just $15 or $20 extra canned and dry foods every shopping trip and within 2 or 3 months you will easily have 3-to-6 months extra food! When I shop I always buy a few extra cans or pounds of rice/beans and more. I use older canning jars and lids for storage of dried foods, we found that regardless of location, mice will find a way to get your food. Glass prevents that.
I do also divide my flour into quart-sized containers simply to prevent infestation by weevils having lost 50 lbs of flour due to this at one point. Check the containers regularly and give the weevils that will pop up time to really fill the jar before giving it to your chickens! They will love the extra fun and your egg stash will grow exponentially as a result.
If you do not have an indoor fireplace, make sure you build an outdoor fire pit, we have both thankfully! Where we live you can get a free permit to cut marked trees in our local national forests. While I am unable to do this regularly due to my physical limitations, check around you, and utilize this available resource. Our approach is a bit different. Local businesses, specifically manufacturers, often have stacks of partially broken pine and sometimes oak pallets and crates. If you just ask, many times they will let you cart them away.
While we fortunately now and have a Dewalt reciprocating saw now, we did start with a hammer and regular pull cut wood saw. Take these crates apart, use the unbroken pieces to build your rabbit hutches, chicken coops, and garden containers. The rest, cut into fireplace size pieces and stack on another pallet or several as needed to help prevent rot. Lastly, local tree trimmers who do not have a chipper will often be happy with you taking the leavings from their tree jobs. We do this every year and have several cords of wood on hand at all times. Cooking, heating, and more are provided for free or a low cost simply by applying yourself and looking around.
Here is where things get a bit difficult. After all we all have our chosen calibers and firearms types. We have been fortunate to be able to find solid defensive tools for relatively low prices. With very few exceptions most of these took a few months of saving. Local gun shops and pawn shops often have lower-priced, solid firearms available. At the moment of course this is not an easy task. Though recently we picked up another .22LR for under $100, a somewhat rough Marlin model 75, the carbine version of the Model 60, which we also have one of. With just a few minutes of work I was able to get it working flawlessly, it needed a new mainspring.
While our AR-15s are not top of the line, they are all reliable and accurate. Our carry handguns are Glock 19s and SW Shields in 9mm. We also have one pump 12g shotgun. Where we live these calibers are all that we need. In addition to this we have simple recurve bows and practice weekly. Our fixed blade knives are either Morakniv Companions or something we were able to find at local yard sales. The knives rarely cost more than $20 each, and, they absolutely work well and are reliable. Ammunition is purchased a little at a time and we tend to train using .22LR firearms more than the others.
Water storage & Filters
We have built a substantial water storage supply that would last us more than a month if for some reason we lost our access to water. This we did by purchasing old food safe 55-gallon drums and storing them in our shed. We use a tablespoon of plain unscented bleach every two years to prevent bacteria growth, and while this is not a great long term drinking approach, it will work in the short term if needed. We replaced one lid with a spigot and using pallets built stands for each, then filled them and now have a solid water supply for emergency short-term use. Add to this our use of Sawyer mini filters, one for each family member and two spares, again purchased over time or during sales. We are easily prepared for bad times, each of us has two single-wall stainless wide mouth canteens which allows us to boil water in them prior to drinking as well.
Camping Items & Other Needs
We go camping several times a year, in some cases we bring only our 3-day bags and try to stay out for a week or more. This has allowed us to adjust our bags individually and based on location. Each of our family members has specific abilities, and each of us has CPR training as well as trauma medical training. You can generally find free or low-cost training with your local community colleges or Red Cross facilities. Of course with my many surgeries they have all had the opportunity to change dressings and even work with infected flesh, badly healing wounds, and more. Not everyone gets this experience, so, get training and do it for free or low cost whenever you can.
Some minor things we have saved and spent good amounts of money on are as follows. Wool blankets, 90% or higher is essential. Good tarps, while I would enjoy having good oilcloth, we have settled with 10’x10′ 12-mil poly tarps. 550 cord and #18 bank-line are also very important. Fishing tackle is also something I willingly spend extra on, as we do catch a decent amount when at our local lakes and streams.
Lastly, medical supplies: Over the years we have amassed solid stores of non-perishable items for medical use. We firmly believe in having backups of backups! Clothing is found at local second-hand stores and in some cases box stores.
I am certainly forgetting some items and approaches and apologize for that. The most important thing we have done to ensure our prepping is complete is simply to maintain awareness of our surroundings and a solidly structured lifestyle that trains our approach daily! Well, that’s it. Thank you for reading!