As a self-confessed budgeting fanatic, I’ve constrained my prepping budget on a monthly basis where I spend in one month what I made the previous month. For example, I spend money in February that I earned in January, and so on. Given the uncertain times, I never want to be “on the hook” with paying for things with “future money”.
So confession out of the way, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with your preparations. I know all about the rule of 3, etc., but when it comes down to it, there really are a lot of choices. Furthermore, when you begin to adopt a more preparedness-focused lifestyle, it can become overwhelming how many things need to be rotated on a regular basis. Being married to a spreadsheet (and a wonderful, Godly woman), I’ve solved this problem by myself using some complex Excel functions that scan my “lists of lists” for a “Y” or “N” in the “Rotate” column, cross reference it with the “Rotation Days” column (this column contains the number of days that an item can sit before being rotated), and then adds to this information from the “Costs” column, which contains up-to-date information on the costs of the rotated item (e.g., 50 AA batteries). This information is then compared against the dates in the “Date of Purchase” column, which is finally compared against “Today’s Date”. All told, this allows me to open up the spreadsheet and see a forecast of items that need to be rotated, how much they cost, and when the rotation needs to occur.
But enough of that. The title of this entry is “Forever Preps” because I enjoy making up words and also because all of this time and effort spent on rotating supplies really makes me appreciate the preps that I have that can be stored indefinitely, without ever really thinking about them again. Please note that I’m not saying that these preps never need to be checked for damage, integrity, etc., I’m just saying that they last forever when stored and/or cared for properly. This saves me a lot of headaches, and will probably be of great interest to like-minded preparedness readers.
Furthermore, I’ll make the argument that one could even start preparing for the future with only Forever Preps, just because they are often the simplest and cheapest forms of preparedness available. They are also a lot less intimidating to new preppers. Think about this – is it easier to have a storage plan for gasoline, which has a very short shelf life, or salt, which is the quintessential Forever Prep? Nothing is a substitute for a comprehensive plan, but this might get some people out of their desk chairs and into prep mode.
Here’s a list of my 15 favorite Forever Preps, and I’d love to hear from the readers of SurvivalBlog about their favorites as well. Where appropriate, I’ve tried to include as much third party validation of the shelf life, and of the uses, of these Forever Preps. Finally, of course, the assumption is made that all of these Forever Preps will be stored in the ubiquitous “cool, dry place”.
Forever Prep #1: Salt
It’s ultra-cheap, doesn’t take up much space, and you can’t live without it. In fact, entire wars have been fought over this now common mineral. While most of us have enough salty foods, table salt, canned goods (tons of salt in there!) and other ways to get salt in a short-term emergency, unless you leave near a salt mine or ocean there’s no way to easily produce it by yourself if the Schumer hits the fan.
I buy salt in solid block form (like a deer lick) and table salt in boxes (Kosher salt) or in other containers, such as the one pound canisters. I transferred much of the table salt I’ve accumulated into glass mason jars so that moisture can’t get in and turn the granular salt into a solid block. Some plain white rice stored in the jars will prevent this as well (and consequently will be preserved forever, although at questionable nutritive value).
By using 6 teaspoons of sugar, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 1 liter of water you can make your own emergency rehydration drink in the event you pick up a diarrhea-inducing disease or parasite. This small step can save your life, even in a short-term disaster. Dying of a lack of salt is not a pleasant way to go, and is sadly a grisly part of why all of those people are dying of cholera in Haiti. Salt can also be used to sanitize instruments for surgery and a host of other applications.
For a fascinating list of about 70 other uses for common table salt, check out the Saltworks web site. Everything from brightening your colors to removing tattoos is covered!
Forever Prep #2: Honey & Sugar
I put these two Forever Preps together because they are similarly awesome. Everyone knows that 2500+ year old honey has been found in the Egyptian pyramids and it still flows and tastes great today. While honey contains certain micronutrients and other retreats that sugar does not, they both are sweet, calorically-rich, and are certainly some of my favorite Forever Preps. It’s very important to have sturdy containers for these for long term storage, such as metal 50 cal ammo boxes or the like, so that rodents don’t get into them.
What most people don’t know is that aside from being delicious, honey and sugar both have antibacterial properties can be safely used to treat wounds in emergency and everyday situations. Emerging research is confirming what people around the world have known for a long time – sugar and honey are effective antimicrobials and can take on even the toughest antibiotic-resistant bugs. I personally know of a doctor that worked in Haiti after the earthquake that instructed the Haitians to create a paste out of sugar, a resource plentiful in the otherwise impoverished country, to treat wounds as opposed to waiting for traditional antibiotics. This was especially important in Haiti, where uninformed Haitians would often split a single prescription’s worth of antibiotics among family members, doing more harm than good.
And in case you wanted more reasons to stock up on these Forever Preps, here’s a list of alternative uses for sugar, which covers everything from trapping cockroaches to removing paint residue.
Forever Prep #3: “Dry” Bleach
This has often been covered by various sources on SurvivalBlog, but so-called “dry” bleach (pure Calcium Hypochlorite) lasts forever. If you go a little crazy and buy two 25 lb boxes of it from a big box store, you can make a solution that can purify about 4 million gallons of water! And, by the way, this Forever Prep is also very cheap (about $45-$50 for 25 pounds) and takes almost no storage space.
You must store dry bleach extremely securely if you have even a remote risk of an unauthorized person gaining access to it. A child or pet could be fatally poisoned by only a small amount of calcium hypochlorite. You could also get sick if you don’t use it appropriately to purify water with the correct chemistry. I store my containers in their original packaging in a metal locker, with high visibility instructions and warnings all over the inside of the locker and secured to the buckets themselves in waterproof plastic sleeves. JWR has posted the correct mixing ratios for use. (See the SurvivalBlog archives.)
And although the list is much shorter, here’s a list of 12 things you can do with bleach from Reader’s Digest. It’s interesting to me that so far Salt, Sugar, and Bleach can all be used to prolong the life of cut flowers. Not exactly a TEOTWAWKI priority, but hey, if the world doesn’t end at can at least be beautiful at your retreat location!
Forever Prep #4: Most Hand Tools
Unless you live in a very humid or salty environment, basic hand tools will last practically forever. My favorite hand tools are made with all steel (e.g., Estwing) or steel and fiberglass construction. Although often beautiful, I don’t care much for wooden handled tools simply because they are more prone to breakage. I’m sure at least one reader will make the argument that a tool’s handle can be easily replaced if it’s broken, but remember that I don’t want any additional things to worry about, so the less prone to breakage the better.
Basic hand tools, such as a hammer, file, saw, screwdrivers, allen wrenches, crescent wrenches, pliers, and the like, can take a real beating and be useful in a myriad of ways before, during, and after a disaster. They can help construct defensive or offensive structures, act as force multipliers in an attack, and even used in medical situations. I know a missionary orthopedic surgeon in Africa that frequently puts a few of his all-steel woodworking tools through an autoclave sanitizer prior to operating, because in the end, a hammer is a hammer, whether you’re hammering bone or wood, and a good Estwing costs a lot less than a comparable “surgical” hammer.
There’s really no reason not to have these crucial Forever Preps, because in addition to a practically indefinite shelf life, they are also useful in your everyday life for fixing things around the house. I keep a big set at home, a set in the car, and a set at my retreat location. The tools that are stored at my retreat are put away into watertight plastic storage containers and wiped down with a coating of oil before storage. With this Forever Prep I have triple redundancy, and indefinite shelf-life.
Forever Prep #5: Non-Perishable Skills
Yes, yes, I know. Many skills, such as marksmanship, are perishable. But some aren’t. There’s a reason for the idiom, “it’s like riding a bike” – some skills really are persistent. I’m pretty sure that now that I’ve been camping regularly for 20 years of my life, that I’ll retain some of those skills even if I don’t camp again. I know how to sharpen a knife. I know how to read. I know how to cook. I know how to dress in cold weather. The list goes on and on. So whenever I’m looking to acquire a new skill, either for prepping or leisure (usually both!), I try to opt for the non-perishable skills.
Learning how to garden, or learning how to care for the preps you already have (e.g., chainsaw sharpening) are likely skills that will stick with most of us for a very long time. Even taking a basic Spanish course at a community college will leave you with some permanent knowledge. And if you don’t know how to ride a bike, please do so, because a bike is still the most efficient form of transportation that humans have come up with yet.
Forever Prep #6: Books
A natural follower of skills, books are another great resource that lasts forever when stored properly. Certain books, such as first aid manuals or detailed atlases of an area, do need to be rotated every so often, but other books contain “non-perishable” knowledge. I look at my books on country living, backwoods survival, chemistry, physics, and food preparation, and marvel about the generations of knowledge that are consolidated for me in a few square feet of space on my bookshelf.
There is also a strong entertainment value in books, and something can be stored for all ages that will provide invaluable relief from the stress and boredom that can occur as part of a grid-down situation.
My favorite book of all is the Good Book, which I keep extra copies of in waterproof containers for distribution in the event of an emergency. That’s the Bread of Life I’m talking about people, and it’s ultimately far more important “charity” for your neighbors than food or water (although those are still important). My best case scenario is being able to offer physical help in the form of food and the like, and at the same time be able to offer spiritual help in the form of a Bible. In the words of someone wiser than me, “people have to know that you care before they can care what you know”.
Forever Prep #7: Ammo
With ammo prices going through the roof over the past decade, ammo is looking to be an excellent long-term investment for a variety of reasons. First, my favorite, while it should be inspected periodically if it’s stored properly it can last forever. Second, we all know that bullets will be in short supply and certainly not easily procurable in the event of a large scale disaster. They are valuable for security, hunting, and possibly barter.
Finally, with the continued War on Terror, whatever your political persuasions may be, the US is going to continue to need lots and lots of bullets. Several sources (including this one from 2005) state that the US military uses over 250,000 rounds per bad guy killed in Afghanistan. Again as of 2005, the US was using 1.8 billion rounds a year and forced to procure some ammo from our Israeli allies because domestic production can’t keep up.
As unrest such as that presently raging in Egypt continue (which I believe will be the case), ammo will only become more and more expensive. Buying it in quantity and buying it now is a safe bet for this vital Forever Prep.
Forever Prep #8: Gold and Silver
There are a lot of very smart people out there that can make the economic case for investing in physical gold and silver as part of your preparedness plan and general retirement portfolio. I’m not going to do that. I’ll just state that, unlike paper money or any other form of currency, Gold is valuable because it doesn’t tarnish, it doesn’t decompose, and it, well, lasts forever. Silver may develop a patina over time but is otherwise also indestructible. I don’t necessarily agree that physical Gold and Silver are the best way to go with your entire retirement budget, because, just like I like to have an edge on inflation, I also like to have a hedge on the economy doing well for the next 30 years. But whatever your opinion on it, Gold and Silver are excellent Forever Preps because you can buy and store them little effort and their value ultimately won’t ever go away.
Forever Prep #9: Water Filters
I store water in plastic jugs with a preservative in them, but they still have to be rotated. The great thing about purchasing a high quality water filter is that its ceramic filters are chemically inert, and unless physically damaged should last indefinitely until used. I only have a backpacking water filter right now, but that combined with my stored water, dry bleach, and knowledge of local water sources makes me feel pretty good. You know what else feels good? Knowing that if I don’t touch that water filter for another 40 years it will still be in great, usable shape.
As a caveat, please note that water filters with moving parts (e.g., most backpacking filters with a pumping action) may need to be inspected and/or lubed at some point. My filter is gravity fed, just like the Big Berkey systems, so no moving parts = excellent Forever Prep.
Forever Prep #10: Propane
I’m going to be totally honest here. Most of my camping appliances are white gas (a.k.a. “Coleman Fuel”) which stores, unopened, for about 10 years. I’ll likely hang on to it because of its superior performance in cold weather, but I’m also looking to expand my arsenal with a host of propane devices.
Why? Unlike white gas, propane lasts virtually forever, and there are many indications that the price of propane is set to skyrocket with the coming economic recovery (as will all petroleum-based fuels). Another reason the price will go up soon is because of decreasing overall demand. Normally when demand decreases so do the prices, but I don’t think this will be the case for propane. Propane requires some infrastructure for delivery and storage, so if demand drops sharply it may become harder and harder to procure. It’s also an environmentally-friendly fuel, and a large number of devices can be powered by propane, including generators, heaters, golf carts, and even leaf blowers! How great will it be to get a large propane tank (or two!) and have them stored away as a Forever Prep.
Forever Prep #11: Baking Soda
Here’s another overlooked common household item that is useful for a ton of different things, is very cheap, and stores forever. Baking soda’s most obvious uses to a prepper are, in my opinion:
- Making baking powder (baking powder has a limited shelf life once mixed)
- Fire extinguisher for grease fires or any fire, really
- Toothpaste (works great and stores forever, unlike toothpaste!)
- Deodorizing (nice for obvious reasons but could also have tactical value; smelly people make poor ambushers)
- Cleaning waste water pipes (flush 4 tablespoons down with hot water to clean pipes)
- Relieving stinging and swelling from insect bites and/or Poison Ivy
- Management of heartburn and acid reflux (1/2 teaspoon or more in ½ a glass of water)
- When added to water baking soda will make beans softer and more digestible
- Add to boiling water when scalding (de-feathering) a chicken to make the process easier
- Trade or barter
Again, many extremely valuable uses from the humble baking soda. The trick with it is to store it in an airtight container that is NOT vapor-permeable. Glass Mason jars with the lids dipped in wax work well for this. All plastics are at least somewhat permeable and can result in your baking soda taking on the flavor of the container or worse, other smells around the container. I store mine in glass mason jars with the lids dipped in wax, and then I place 12-16 jars at a time into old 20mm shell cases I buy from a local GI Store. The inside of the case I line with foam to prevent breakage.
Forever Prep #12: Vinegar
Wow, if you thought the other Forever Preps were versatile, vinegar should also be on your list! Vinegar for long term storage does best in glass containers, although plastic can be used as long as the container retains is original factory seal. It can be used for cooking, preserving food, relieving sunburn, doing laundry, cleaning and more! To list them all here would take too long, so here is a link to a list of 131 ways to use Vinegar. Vinegar is also cheap, readily available, and fairly easy to store.
Forever Prep #13: Paraffin Candles
Most people will say that candles have an indefinite shelf life. Well, I can tell you that assertion is patently false. Candles have an indefinite shelf life if stored in a cool, dry place, but if they aren’t you are taking a huge gamble with your preps. Allow me to share two examples from my own life.
I used to have a 36 hour, wax-based “survival” candle in the back of my car with an emergency kit. After two or three years had gone by, I went to use the candle on a camping trip and discovered that not only had the candle melted, but its contents had actually mostly evaporated and all that was left was a waxy mess and a few stumps of a wick! Additionally, my wife and I stored candles (emergency and decorative) in a storage facility that wasn’t climate controlled. After a few months we moved and went to retrieve them and, guess what? The candles had all melted on to one another and ruined the box they were in. Not exactly Forever Prep material!
After some research, I discovered the miracle of Liquid Paraffin. It’s wax in its liquid state, so it’s already melted and placed into airtight containers so there’s no risk of it evaporating away. You can buy it in bulk from many places online. However, the cheapest avenue I have found is to buy bulk boxes of liquid paraffin candles from restaurant supply stores. It’s the same candle featured in “survival” stores, but much cheaper to buy by the case. In fact, a case of 36, 50-hour candles (a combined 1,800 hours of burn time!) can often be had for about $70-$90.
Just do a web search for “restaurant liquid paraffin candles” and you’ll end up with a host of wholesale suppliers. My favorite kinds have the built-in extinguisher that will snuff out the flame if the candle tips over. Bonus tip: place a lit candle in a one quart mason jar with sand at the bottom to have a virtually windproof source of light. If you want to get really fancy, you can include a lid with holes punched in it and use a piece of piano wire or clothes hanger as a handle.
Forever Prep #14: Paper Products (toilet paper, Ladies’ Stuff, etc.)
Easy to store (keep it dry!), cheap to buy, and completely innocuous to nosy neighbors that might find it in your basement, paper products are excellent Forever Prep material. These are everyday items that will be impossible to find once your local store runs out of them, and there aren’t too many ready “natural” replacements for quilted toilet paper or disposable lady products. They are also useful for a number of reasons. For instance, Maxi-pads are usually sterile (or close enough) and can be used effectively as emergency first-aid bandages to stop heavy bleeding. Tampons actually work really well, too, especially if you bundle several of them together. Paper towels can be used for cleaning up messes, first aid, filtering sediment from water, fire starting, personal hygiene, makeshift coffee filters, home-made baby wipes, a skinning aid (grab slippery chicken skin with a paper towel and it’s much easier to hold on to!), a desiccant for storing herbs (wrap herbs in dry paper towels and place in the sun), etc., etc., etc. You’ll be amazed at what you use them for in an emergency. Paper products also make great insulators in a pinch – that’s why homeless folks are often seen with newspapers stuffed into their clothes, in order to trap more hot air around their bodies.
Here’s a list of what I store and why:
- Toilet Paper. Buy it on sale at a big box store. Ever used leaves or bark? Not fun.
- Paper towels. See above for more uses than you can shake a stick at.
- Feminine hygiene products. You have to be careful when storing the pads that have the moisture-absorbing gel in them, because moisture can seep in from the air over time, rendering them useless. Just use the bucket method of storage, just like you would for wheat or other food stuffs. A 5 gallon bucket with a gamma seal lid, and a thick Mylar bag inside with an oxygen absorber will make those types of pads last virtually forever.
- Disposable baby diapers. A big case for charity or use by my neighbors. These also have the desiccant gel in them, so must be stored appropriately. Remember that babies use the bathroom upwards of 10 times a day, and if you’re having an emergency that means that is a TON of washing that you won’t want to have to do. If your prepping plans must include the care of an aging relative, buying the adult diapers en masse may also be a good idea, just in case.
- Picnic Supplies. Not totally paper, I know, but a good supply of paper plates, paper bowls, paper cups, and plastic utensils are essential for a short- to medium-term emergency, especially one that requires the quarantine of an infected individual. Sure you’ll have your Forever Prep “dry” bleach to sanitize things, but wouldn’t it just be much easier to use disposables that can be incinerated or put into thick trash bags instead? This means less contact with potential pathogens, less precious water required for cleaning and rinsing, and less time spent on cleaning, so you can attend to more important needs.
Forever Prep #15: Jesus
Talk about non-perishable! Everlasting life? By definition the most important Forever Prep you can get. It’s free, lasts forever, requires no storage space, is communal, and is guaranteed to make surviving any disaster with your sanity intact a much rosier prospect. Jesus never said that he came to make our lives easier, more comfortable, or cheaper. He came to give us Life, and Life to the full! What difference does it make if you survive the end of the world as we know it on earth, but haven’t prepped to meet your maker at the real and certain TEOTWAWKI – the end of your earthly existence? Enough said.
So there you have it, my list of 15 Forever Preps. Things you can get today that will last until you need them, no questions asked. I hope this helps someone out there, and can spur some more ideas. Let me know if you have some Forever Preps yourself – I’ll gladly add them to my list of lists, with a big “N” in the “Rotate” column!