Prepping for Newbies, by M.G.D.

If you’re just now catching on to the need to prep, it’s not too late, but to be done effectively, it will cost you some money up front.
There are plenty of suggestions and web sites galore for the budget-challenged to prep ranging from buying a little extra each week—see the LDS shopping list for newlyweds—to hunting, fishing and foraging on state land. At the other extreme are those who can afford survivalist-consultants to build and stock extensive underground bunkers, which require the employ of a staff including farmers and Blackwater-type security. But, since no one else is, I’m going to focus on the needs of someone who needs to get up to speed fast and has enough money to cover it.  And getting up-to-speed has recently been sped up to two years of preps from six months.
Let’s get going.

Time’s Running Out

There are already sporadic shortages of various consumer products and, depending on how bad things get, there may come a time when some items aren’t available at all, especially things that come from far away. A few years ago when surveying the wreckage after the 2008 crash, a consumer-products analyst was worried about what choice the consumer would be left with as the Great Recession deepened. Yes, I know, choice will be the least of our concerns going forward, but you should stock up on what’s important to your family now while it’s still possible.
The take-away here is not that the needs of what’s left of the middle class are different from anyone else’s. The point, again, and unfortunately, is that it will take that kind of income or enough room left on credit cards to catch up to storing two years of necessities. And preferably, this should be accomplished before the November elections in the US. Our long-time friend, FerFAL, has a few insights about what to expect from mid-November (scroll down to What will Happen in the USA after the Elections.)

Everybody’s got to Eat

The shopping list below will cover bulk purchases and storage of food, water and minimal toiletries in quantities sufficient to get by for two years. You can still buy the dips when favourite items go on sale; however, I don’t think there’s enough time left to use the Mormon’s weekly shopping list that is spread out over a year.

Whether or not you buy into TEOTWAWKI mentality or not, at the very least, storms and other natural disasters can keep you running your generator for a week or a lot longer. This happened in the Northeast during last October’s freak snowstorm and happens repeatedly in other parts of the country. Oh, wait a sec; you do have a generator, don’t you? It’s at the top of 100 Things that Disappear First. You gotta have a generator. You also gotta have fuel for it, which you gotta store. If it’s gasoline, you’ll need a gasoline additive like Sta-Bil. Get the original formula for the [gasoline] generator and lawn tractor, Sta-Bil marine for your boat if you have one and Sta-Bil diesel for your Mercedes.

Talking about Mercedes, when the drought reached crisis stage in Somalia more than year ago, many Somalis—but not all—had to walk for days, weeks and sometimes a month to get to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. One woman who didn’t have to walk was approached by reporters as she got out of a car with her kids. Her car was a Mercedes, but she didn’t have food and had to go to the refugee, camp. And why didn’t she have food; why didn’t she barter her car, cell phone or expensive wristwatch for food? Because there wasn’t any. There wasn’t any food at any price. Can it happen here? The US had a drought this year after a lousy growing season last year. The effects of these things are cumulative. So’s radiation poisoning, BTW, but we’ll get to that some other time.

Many items will end up in short supply or not be available at all. Note the Iranian diplomatic staff stocking up on consumer products (at dollar stores, mind you; times must be tough over there) while in New York to attend UN meetings. You’d think they’d have a few bucks, so I guess the items they bought were no longer available in Iran. Their currency plunging 20-30% over a day or two didn’t help either. I hope no one still thinks it can’t happen here.

Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb has been to store six months of food, cash and anything else you need. Some think two years are safer and I do too. While you may have to increase your food budget 100-fold short term, keep in mind that this is a no-lose proposition. Anything you buy today will be more expensive tomorrow. So, as you effectively pull consumption forward, you will be average-costing down your household expenses. Even if prepping in anticipation of scarcity doesn’t grab you, blunting the effect of inflation, or a potential jobless stretch, should. I don’t see much of a downside here. Preps not used can be donated to a local food pantry for a tax deduction. If you have the extra funds, that would be a nice idea anyway.

Two Years’ Worth…

Drinking Water: This is considered the most important prep. The plastic containers water is sold in leach so you should store drinking water in glass containers. I bought gallon glass jars from: 

The Mayo Clinic recommends [a minimum of] 72 oz/day for women and 104oz/day for men [for a sedentary lifestyle]. Together, that’s about a gallon a day with enough left over to fill your cat or dog’s bowl. FreshWaterSystem’s price break for gallon jars is $4.24 for 24+. Here’s where the bucks come in. If you want to safely store drinking water for six months for two adults and a cat, that would be about 180 [one gallon] jars for $339.20; one year $678.40; and two years $1,356.80. The plastic jugs that you buy milk in are now formulated to biodegrade, but can be used to store water for bathroom use should it not be forthcoming from the faucet.

Tip: You can fine tune water purity by filtering it through a Big Berkey or other countertop water filter. If you’re looking at second homes, with prices coming down, look for something with a well. If you can dig a well where you are now, do so and install a solar pump.

Adequate Nutrition: The recommended daily calories for women* are 2,400—1,600/day depending on age and 3,000—2,000/day for men.** The easiest way to get sufficient calories and

Tip: Rice, beans and maybe a few other veggies can be made quite palatable with teriyaki or soy sauce. I bought a lifetime’s supply of Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce at $39 a 36-bottle case, which was a bargain over grocery-store prices.
Sautéing veggies and meats in olive oil improves the taste and adds nutrients. Oil lasts several years in unopened glass bottles or metal cans; just make sure you get it in glass bottles or cans.

*A woman aged 19 to 30 years needs between 2,000 and 2,400 calories daily; 31 to 50 years 1,800 to 2,200 calories daily; those over age 51 need 1,600 to 2,200 calories daily.

Males** ages 19 to 30 need 2,400 to 3,000 calories a day, those 31 to 50 need 2,200 to 3,000, depending on level of activity. Males over age 51 need 2,000 to 2,800 calories a day.

Coffee and Tea: I don’t think it’s asking too much to include coffee and tea in a survivalist diet. carries several brands and sizes of coffee and tea including non-dairy creamer, which probably has a shelf life of infinity. Honey will last indefinitely too. Ground coffee in an unopened can will last two years or longer. Tea in bags in their unopened box or transferred to a lidded glass jar will last at least two years.

Spices and Condiments: Among common household items that store indefinitely are salt, sugar (preferably stored in glass or metal cans), honey and mayonnaise (unopened in a glass jar).
Those that last two years or more include dried or powdered garlic (2 years), dried or powdered onion (2-3 years); ground pepper (2-3 years); peppercorns (3-4 years). Here’s a good site to lookup shelf life:

Dollar-Store Spices: Prices are so much better at dollar stores that, for these items, I suggest actually shopping in a store. If you don’t want to spend the time, but are okay with spending the extra money, there are online sources. You can also buy cases of spices from the dollar store.

Pet Food: From a vet: “Generally speaking, if you buy the more expensive all-natural foods, the natural preservatives such as vitamin E used do not work as long as the preservatives used in cheaper foods. They break down. This is reflected in the best-used-by-date posted clearly on the higher-end pet foods. Dry pet foods with natural preservatives may be kept under 85 degrees sealed in a container in the original bag for about 4 months, while foods with other preservatives may be kept as much as three years if kept properly sealed up cool and dry. Just kept in the bag, I would not keep dry pet food past three months.”

Dog Food:
Nutritional requirements for a dog aren’t that much different than for a human. They can be fed people food and do fine.

Cat Food:
This isn’t so for cats, however. There is a good article on the subject from Cornell’s Vet School.  In a SHTF scenario, kitty may have to make due with certain people foods. Low acid foods have a greater shelf life than those with higher acids in them. Fish and meat are low acid foods, hence, can be stored for a long time. Canned fish and meat can be stored unopened for about 2-5 years. Ask your vet about vitamin supplements.

Preppers are obsessed with toilet paper. I don’t know why, but I bow to their greater experience. Since it’s bulky, it’s a lot easier to have delivered than to buy it at the store. Here’s where I bought Ultra-Soft Charmin (the price break is at 40 rolls) at  Conservatively, budget 1.5 rolls per person, per week. That’s 78 rolls per year/one adult or 156 rolls for two adults. For two years/two people you’ll need 312 rolls or about 8 cartons @ $38.94/carton for a total of $311.52.

Tip: Toilet paper is considered to be a high-value barter item amongst the prepper cognoscenti. It also makes a nice hostess gift or Christmas stocking stuffer. Think of all those omelet brunches you’ll be invited to by backyard chicken farmers when they know you’ll show up with a roll. Not having gone through the above formula before I placed my order, I now have plenty to barter with.

Wrapping Up

If you place orders for the above items—all of which can be done online—you and your companion pets will have two years of adequate nutrition and safe hydration plus toilet paper. I’ll go into other food and toiletry items that will help maintain well being in subsequent articles.

JWR Adds: I realize that in many jurisdictions inside city limits with civic water supplies it is illegal to drill a well. But if you live in a region with a high water table and it is legal to do so, then go ahead and drill!

Regardless, you should convert your roof downspouts to fill water barrels. That water is fine as-is for gardening or toilet flushing. If you have a composition roof or a roof with treated wood shakes, you should plan to re-roof with a metal roof. Not only will it give you better fire protection, but it will also eliminate most contaminants from captured rainwater. If used for drinking, captured rainwater should be run through a good quality high volume ceramic filter such as a Big Berkey. (Available from several SurvivalBlog advertisers.)

Not all plastics leach toxins. Food grade HDPE is perfectly safe for water storage. Glass jars are not advised in earthquake country, but they are fine anywhere else. However, the cost per-gallon cost of storing water in jars is dramatically higher than using HDPE barrels, tanks, or tank totes. That is the only affordable way for most folks to set aside a large supply for dry seasons.