I live in Northeastern Minnesota with my wife and four children ages: four to seven. I teach and am a sports coach at the local high school in town (population 1,200). We live two hours away from any type of big city, which in our case is Duluth, Minnesota (population 85,000). My wife is a stay-at-home mom. Three years ago, we built a new house four miles outside of town on 15 acres that my parents gave us. Combined, we make just over $56,000 a year. In just this past year, my wife and I have started making the transition to a more preparedness-minded lifestyle. As I have scanned and read hundreds of articles online, I have found a wealth of practical information, but little in the way of practical advice for families. I hope this article helps young families that are either on a limited budget, may feel overwhelmed in their initial stages of preparation, or both.
My Introduction to Preparedness
I didn’t know it at the time, but my introduction to preparedness came in 1999 when I sat at a large table with about 15 other men in a small town café for our weekly bible study. A small portion of these men were worried about Y2K and urged others to prepare. I thought they were “nuts.” I did respect them as Christian men, however, and prayed for guidance. Looking back, I was a squared away 24 year-old but was still spiritually immature. At that time in my life, I felt no urging by the Lord to prepare for Y2K.
About ten years later in the middle of a bitterly cold 2009 winter night, the power went out in my newly-built home. My home, at the time, ran completely on electricity with no form of back-up heat. I was lucky to have in-floor heat on both levels of my home, but the wind was howling that night, as the temperatures outside kept dropping and eventually hit 30 below zero. With the wind chill effect, it was probably near 60 to 70 below. My kids didn’t like how dark the house was, even though we had flashlights on hand for each of them. I put my four children to sleep early and piled on some extra blankets. At 7:00 p.m. it was 60 in the house and I wasn’t worried as my new home was well-insulated and built tight. I went to call my parents, who own the 20 acres bordering the western boundary of our place. Our phones in the house, however, all depended on electricity so I decided that my call could wait until the morning. When I went to bed at 11:00 p.m. it was now 50 in the house and I just assumed the power company guys were having a hard time in the wind and cold. I woke up in the early morning and noticed that it was about 40 degrees in the house and still no electricity. I was now a little uneasy as I didn’t need pipes freezing up on me. At 7:00 a.m. I bundled up the kids and took them next door where I knew my dad had a gas fireplace. To my surprise, his electricity was up and running. To make a long story short, it was just my place without power as the wires from the transformer came loose when my box moved from winter heaving. I called the power company and they had my box fixed within the hour. Nothing bad had happened, but it did get me thinking about a few questions:
- What if we were without power for a few days, a week, or even longer?
- What am I going to do to make sure I don’t have to be up all night worrying about my children?
Later, I called up one of the men in my bible study from years back….one of the “nuts.” We started talking regularly and then I started emailing back and forth with his brother who lives in Alaska. Both guys are solid Christian men with a heart for being prepared and ready. They borrowed me the book, One Second After by William Forstchen. Reading that book gave me a sense of urgency. In addition, I also teach Economics, Political Science, and Finance and am very weary of today’s economy for numerous reasons. When I got to the point where I was ready to make a commitment to preparedness for my family, here are the steps we took to get started (these are in no particular order – just how they worked for us):
Step One: Get on the Same Page with your Wife
While my wife and I agree that the man is the spiritual head of the family, it sure makes life easier in all respects when you both agree to commit to something together. Depending on your circumstances, this may take some time, substantial prayer, and even some tutoring. This may mean having your spouse read Mr. Rawles’ excellent book,“Patriots”. It may mean having them read One Second After. I have a friend of mine right now that would like to start preparing, but hasn’t had the courage to bring it up to his wife yet. How is that going to work? It isn’t. We need to be on the same page with our wives.
Step Two: Make a Financial Plan
I first thought to myself, “I can’t afford to buy any of these items. We live paycheck to paycheck with a nice big mortgage payment on the 25th of each month.” My wife and I then had to decide how serious we really were. Is this just talk, or are we going to commit to being prepared? Do I want to watch my kids freeze to death if TEOTWAWKI takes place? I suggest each family assess their own individual situation and then plan out their finances in two phases if possible:
- Decide if you can make a “down payment” to jumpstart your preparation.
- Then, factor in a monthly stipend for preparation goods and materials. Think of it like paying a monthly life insurance premium, only this one will save your life.
Step Three: Evaluate Your Situation and Prioritize Your Needs
One thing to mention here: Just because you have something on your priority list of preparation items, doesn’t mean you can go get it right away. You have to balance your “priority list” with your checkbook. My wife and I won’t buy anything we can’t afford. If we have to use a credit card to get it, we simply don’t! In our individual situation we created this prioritized list:
- A Wood Stove to heat the house and to cook on in case of an emergency.
- Installation of a hand pump on our current well for water
- Back up food: Both short-term and long-term
- Learning new skills (Making our own bread from wheat, canning our vegetables from the garden, using non-hybrid seeds, splitting our own wood, etc.)
- Buying some added security (Guns and ammo)
For example, we decided to cash-in a $6,500 investment that I could get without paying a penalty. We first used some of that money to purchase a new wood stove and a hand pump for our well. Heat and water were no longer concerns for us. What was next for us? Back-up food. Each time at the grocery store we spend an extra $50 on canned goods, rice, cereal, staples, toilet paper, etc. to build up a rotating pantry that will last our family of six approximately three months.
The next step for us was the hardest: long-term food. In my humble opinion, once you decide to buy long-term food, you have entered the official prepper stage. Now you are in. We took $1000 from my investment and used half of it to buy a Country Living Grain Mill and all of its extra parts. We then bought 1000 pounds of hard red wheat, 200 pounds of rye berries, and a few other staples like wheat, sugar, etc.
My friend (from the bible study) and his wife then taught us how to make the following: bread from scratch using the mill, corn meal mush from feed corn, and bannock native biscuit-type bread). We then set up future dates to learn how to make Ezekiel bread over an open fire, as well as many other helpful tutorials we could use around the house.
Last, but not least, I used my tax return and bought a DPMS AR-15 and 1,000 rounds of ammo for an added sense of security. If anyone would have come over to our place in a threatening manner and we had to defend ourselves, before that purchase, I only had the following: a single shot Remington Model 37 Steelbilt 20 gauge shotgun, a Remington 30-06 Model 700 hunting rifle, and my .380 Bersa with just one magazine. With some remaining money left over, I found two spare magazines for my .380. I have much more on my wish list that we just can’t afford at this time. I really don’t want to have to use any of these weapons, but if the time comes where I must protect my wife and kids, I will be ready with the resources that I have.
Don’t Be Intimidated By What Others Have! Everyone’s financial situation and priorities are different. My wife and I could have easily read what others have in the way of supplies and knowledge and just said, “There’s no way we can do that.” Instead, we just decided to do what we can with what we have. We have to give our plan to the Lord and let him provide for us in the ways he sees fit. Start where you can, and get on the same page with your family. What are you immediate needs? Can you get them now? If not, now you have something to save for. If yes, that is great. Now you can move down your list to the next priority. We are now currently saving up for a case of freeze-dried butter powder and a case of freeze-dried egg powder. My next big wish is to build an underground root cellar somewhere on our property.
Step Four: Include Your Kids in Everything so They are Prepared
If I tell my kids that we are having a fire drill, they can get out of their beds, crawl on the floor, open the window, take off the screens, and get out of the house in less than one minute. All four kids also know to meet behind the shed if such a thing were to happen. Our kids need to be a part of the process. If TEOTWAWKI happens and our kids are so terrified that they can’t function, surviving will be twice as difficult. I once did the fire drill while throwing pillows at the kids. That day we taught them to be focused even if there is chaos all around them.
Our kids also help in the bread-making process, each to their own abilities. The oldest can now turn the mill; one mixes the flour, etc. All four of our kids also know where we store our food and they know not to tell anyone. We tell them, “Lots of people don’t have extra grain. It is like bragging. Just tell people that dad’s hunting and fishing gear is in that cabinet.”
As a kid I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad, but my dad always did the “messy” work like gutting the deer and cleaning the fish. My wife and I are doing our best to teach our kids how to fish, a healthy respect (not fear) for guns, the tips to wood splitting, how to start a fire, etc. Our kids are too young to do a lot right now, but we always take the time to teach the “how and why” of what we are doing. Our kids love it and are now starting to ask if they can help. We never deny them that opportunity.
Even if your kids are young, don’t underestimate what they can do. Here are some things we have been introducing our four young children to:
- Stacking, hauling, cutting wood
- How to start a fire
- Lighting a candle in the house on their own
- How to identify animal tracks
- A respect for guns – an introduction to shooting with the Red Rider
- How to cook various meals
- A familiarity with our property and our trail system
- How to use walkie-talkies
- Fire Drills and places on the property to meet
- Camping skills and helping put up a tent
- How to use a compass
- How to use a slingshot
Obviously, I am not going to hand my three year old a 12-guage shotgun and let him go in the woods. All of our boys, however, the four-year old included, can start a fire from scratch in my wood stove or in our fire pit. As they get older, we challenge them with the next level of preparedness. Not only are you giving your kids invaluable skills for the future, you are helping them become self-sufficient and not reliant on others.
Step Five: Use Discernment in Finding Like-Minded Friends
My wife and I have been fortunate to find an older couple to mentor us. We are careful not to open ourselves up to just anyone. We live in a small town where if one person tells others something, you can assume a large minority of town knows about it. We have many close friends that have no idea about our level of preparedness. When we see an opening in a conversation with someone we trust, we will feel them out, and take it from there.
Step Six: Continue to Research and Don’t Get Discouraged!
I can’t believe how much I have learned in just a year’s time. SurvivalBlog alone has thousands of outstanding articles written by people who have been preparing for years and years. Use the internet and any other resources of information you can find. Like many others, my wife and I have started our own little library of books, articles, etc. We even learned how to seal up Mylar bags in our five gallon buckets of food storage on YouTube!
In conclusion, if you are a beginning family or have a tight budget, don’t get discouraged! Even if you just start by putting away $20 a month and save up your funds for a while. Over time that money will grow and you will have a nice start to your preparedness plan. Checking out books at the library is free. Take down the notes you feel are important and then move on to another book. Before you know it, you and your family will find that preparedness is a way of life.