I am writing this article to inform other average Americans of how I began prepping, in hopes that my suggestions will be helpful for those who are just beginning. I began prepping after watching numerous shows on the National Geographic channel in connection with current news channels. Recognizing that America is vulnerable in several aspects (i.e. our power grid, internal terrorists, and weather events), I began to visualize how unprepared my family and I were in the event of a national emergency.
Now you may be saying to yourself “in the event of an emergency, our government will take care of us.” However, in reality, ask yourself if this has been put to the test; in other words, has there has been a national crisis in which Americans HAVE actually experienced the government doing a good job of taking care of the people in a major event? For example, most Americans probably have experienced a power outage for at least one day, and most Americans probably can attest that they had enough food, water, finances, antibiotics, and entertainment to last throughout that day. What if it had been for three days? It is recommended by multiple sources for Americans to have at least a three day supply of food and water in the event of an emergency. It is very likely that, if you ration your family’s food and water, your entire family would make it through three days without electricity or means of transportation. However, not many Americans think the “what if” scenario of survival past three days. This is the background question that led me to begin prepping; it was a “what if” scenario of national power grid failure, national terrorist emergency, or even severe weather events.
Now, I am no means the richest American, nor am I the poorest; I am an average American. My finances can be a struggle at times, so prepping has been an adventure for me financially and educationally. At first, the thought of being unprepared hit me like a train. I was nervous, and different scenarios kept popping up in my head as well as the dreaded “what if” situations. My first immediate reaction, which hurt financially, was to purchase long-term food storage supplies. This did relieve a bit of anxiety and give me some peace of mind. I had enough food storage to last my family quite a while, yet the feeling of the need for greater preparedness was edging me. More questions began to arise. I asked myself, “What if my family and I are not home?” “How will we survive to get home?” “In the event x happens, where can I find my loved ones?” We realized we were only a fraction of the way to feel comfortably prepared.
In response to these thoughts, we purchased pre-made bug-out bags to keep with us at all times. These bug-out bags were decently equipped and were made with decent quality backpack material. However, again, the “what if” questions began to populate my mind. I wondered, “What if we get stranded or have to travel in bad weather conditions (i.e. snow, rain, extreme heat)?” “What would we do if we had to camp overnight somewhere before we could make it home?” “What if we have to defend our supplies from wild animals or attackers?” These questions are the ones that brought my prepping to a whole new level.
I began to purchase a few items from local retail stores, but I quickly realized that more items were needed for various scenarios and with our survival experience. This, in return, would add quite a bit of expenses for items purchased from local retail stores to add to each of our bug-out bags for equal distribution of four total bug-out bags. I did some research and discovered a lot of the items we were wanting on our check list could be purchased through online auction websites and online retail stores at significantly lower prices. Granted, shipping for several items took three to even five weeks to receive. However, the cost effectiveness outweighed the time constraint benefits. We begin to purchase items for less than $3.00 each (including free shipping) such as:
- Gasoline siphons
- Fire starting equipment (flint and steel, lighters, stormproof matches)
- Antibiotic (bandages, first aid kits, ointments)
- Communication (pocket battery-operated radio, solar/hand-crank radio)
- Water purification (water purify straw, purification tablets)
- Shelter ($12.00 kid-size tent [5×6′ tent for up to four people], disposable mylar tents, ponchos, tarp)
These are a few of the many examples of items we purchased that averaged around $1.50 each.
We felt greatly more prepared for a national event that might occur, while we are doing our normal everyday life routines (work, school, outside events). Yet, the questions began to arise again in regards to long-term survival. After doing research, I discovered that dehydrating and canning food has significant cost benefits along with long-term storage gains. We began canning essential everyday items, such as salt, sugar, herbs (dehydrated), and flour. We learned that these items have significantly longer shelf lives if canned properly. The method we used was the “oven-bake method” with the following steps:
- Fill the jars with the dried goods, leaving approximately a 1 to 2-inch gap of air from the top of the can,
- Put the jars (unsealed) in the oven on 200 degrees on a cookie sheet for 1 hour,
- After 1 hour, take the jars out, while wiping the rims with a damp cloth,
- Put a 100cc oxygen absorber in a 32-ounce jar, and secure the lid tightly on the jar.
There have been pros and cons to this method of long-term storage. I, personally, have not been doing this for 15-25 years to attest to its effectiveness, but for any food storage method there are three basic factors that effect the length of time the food can safely be stored:
- Temperature (ideally store dry goods in ~50-60 degree temperature)
- Light (store in a dark environment)
- Moisture (store in a moisture-free environment)
I have even heard of people storing biscuit and pancake mixes in this manner, but I have not personally attempted that.
Our next method for long-term food storage involved dehydrated foods. Dehydrated foods, when stored properly, can last for several years. Fruits tend to not last as long as vegetables, which may last up to five years, yet fruits contain valuable nutrients worth storing. Dehydrated vegetables can last several years when stored in ideal conditions. Ask yourself, how often do you purchase vegetables (such as potatoes) or fruits (such as oranges) in bags of larger quantities than you actually use? We do it all the time. We end up finding ourselves at grocery stores about to purchase a few individual food items, such as potatoes, when it is just as affordable to purchase a bag of potatoes. Nine out of ten times we find ourselves throwing out quite a bit of the excess quantities, simply because they were not used or stored properly. We began to purchase groceries how we would normally, but we dehydrated these excess quantities of foods that we used to throw out. Dehydrating foods retain most of the nutrients while taking out the moisture in foods. Moisture in foods is what contributes to foods spoiling in short periods of time due to mold growth.
We began to store our dehydrated vegetables and fruits in one-gallon mylar bags with a 300cc oxygen absorber, which we found to be relatively cheap online. We also purchased 5-gallon buckets that we found at local retail stores for $2.97 each in the paint section. We thoroughly clean these buckets, line them with a 5-gallon mylar bag, insert a 2000cc oxygen absorber, and fill them with bags of dehydrated foods. We also use a sealant along the rim of the lid connection for extra precaution from air. Again, I personally cannot attest to the effectiveness of these methods; however, my method is based on multiple storage techniques from multiple online long-term food storage suggestions and combining multiple methods. We felt it is better to have multiple methods to increase the effectiveness for long-term storage. For the storage of the jars, we did the same method by placing them in a 5-gallon bucket that is lined with a 5-gallon mylar bag and 2000cc oxygen absorber.
As for water, we have purchased water in one gallon jugs so that we have enough for one gallon of water per person for 30 days. We have also purchased quantities of water purification tablets along with household bleach for further water purification. (Use two drops of bleach per one quart of water.) We plan to boil the water for extra precaution when it comes time for use. We live in a wooded area, so wood will be our primary source of fuel and heat. We plan to use the 5-gallon buckets to collect rain water for extended long-term storage, beyond our 30 day supply of water.
We have purchased a few weapons and ammo to use, if needed. We also have several machetes. We believe an attacker would be less likely to attack a person with a machete, if the attacker only has a commonly found attack weapon, such as a pipe, baseball bat, or knife. Along with other safety training, we plan to be prepared in the event our safety is at risk.
We haven’t had to put our methods to test in any real-life event emergency. However, we are slowly and continuously getting more prepared each day and more cost effectively doing so while encouraging others to do the same. Ask yourself, “To what extent would you go to protect your family and loved ones?” Are you prepared to survive for days, weeks, or years without a reliable source of food, water, or supplies? Farming can be effective for a long-term food source; however, in the event of a national emergency during an off-season, be prepared for you, your family, and your loved ones, and maybe also to help your neighbors, too!