Recently, I came across a website for ex-Mormons who were lamenting the time, effort, and money they sunk into fulfilling the church’s teaching of long-term food storage.
There were many stories of throwing out large amounts of expired food, both for themselves and deceased relatives. Of course, the faithful in the Mormon Church will tell you that if you have to throw out expired food, whether you have ever experienced an emergency or not, you have not been doing it right. You should, for example, already be grinding your own wheat and making your own bread. You shouldn’t wait for the grid to fall before you start doing that.
I have to say that I haven’t gotten around to grinding my own wheat yet on regular basis, but otherwise I have fallen into a pretty good routine of using the stuff I have stored before it goes bad. Still, the ex-Mormons’ comments had me thinking whether I would someday look back and regret the time, effort, and money that I have spent on emergency preparedness. What if nothing ever happens that leads to me really needing a hand-cranked wheat grinder to survive or breaking out an AR-15 to defend my home?
My answer is that even though the biggest emergency I have experienced is the occasional brief power outage, my preparedness efforts have already benefited me in more ways than I can probably enumerate. One of my first efforts was putting an emergency bag in my car. Almost immediately, I found that I was using it. I would need to cut something, and there in my bag would be a knife. If I cut myself, I would have a bandage, or I might be stuck somewhere waiting and get hungry or thirsty; there would be some food and water in the bag. I also had a change of clothes, which proved useful on many occasions when I tore or soiled some clothes that would otherwise have required that I go back home to change. Additionally, my job would sometimes send me out of town overnight at a moment’s notice, and with my bag, I didn’t have to go home and get anything. So, with my regular use of the emergency bag, my first problem that I had to deal with was making sure I kept my supplies in my bag from running out.
Keeping up a good food supply at home has been extremely valuable and has saved a lot of money, although I did throw out some food early on before I became acutely aware of expiration dates. Now I am fairly obsessed with expiration dates. Any grocery item I buy, whether it is to be for long-term storage or not, I check the expiration date. I have discovered that some stores sell items that have already been on the shelves for too long and have a far shorter expiration date than you would expect. I’ve learned going to a higher volume store, like Walmart, can usually fetch better dates. Even for items like milk and bread, I’ve learned that if you check toward the back of the shelf, you can usually get a better date. As a single person, that’s important for me because it’s hard for me to use up a loaf of bread or gallon of milk before it goes bad. The benefit to my emergency preparedness efforts is that I have reduced waste and saved money that I can put toward buying longer term food items.
It used to be that if I came home after a hard days work and realized I had nothing in the fridge or freezer that would make a meal, I would order pizza or go back out and pick up some fast food. However, I now always have something I can put together to make a meal, and a pretty good one at that. For single people, this also comes in handy if you are sick and have no one to look after you.
I have learned a lot about guns. I used to be one of “those” who didn’t see a need for a gun and, frankly, was a little scared to have a gun in the house. However, once I bought a 9 mm, learned some safety guidelines, and fired it at a range a few times, I became very comfortable with it. I began to see that a gun is not going to fire itself and, if you aren’t an idiot, a gun is not going to harm you.
Spending on guns, however, still bothered me, because I knew I would use the food regardless, but what if I never need the gun? The thing is, if you take care of a gun, it will last pretty much forever, and it will keep its value. The guns I see for sale in the pawn shop don’t look much cheaper than new ones. So, in addition to home protection, a gun can be a way of converting paper money that could become worthless into something tangible that would become exponentially more valuable in a grid down situation. I used to scoff at people who had large gun collections, because it seems to me about four or five would cover most any scenario and you can only shoot one at a time. Dual wielding might be fun in a video game, but I don’t think it’s the best tactical choice in real life. If we are left to fend for ourselves, there will probably be no better barter item than a gun.
I live in a sketchy neighborhood, and my home was broken into twice. That was in my pre-emergency preparedness days. No one has broken into my house since, which has been about four years now. If they did, they would be making a very bad choice, I guarantee you, especially if I am home at the time, but even if I am not.
Just to cite one example of improved security, which cost only about $30, was putting in a pet door. Before the burglary, I left my dog in the back yard while I was away. However, the last time I was burglarized, the intruder came in through a front window, so my dog had no way to stop him. Now, if anyone approaches the front of my house and makes any noise, a living burglar alarm will go off from inside.
I also improved my home security team by adding a second dog. If you are allergic to dogs or just can’t have one for some reason, spend about three or four bucks for some “Beware of the dog” signs. Even in a desperate time, I would bet that any intruder would see that and be inclined to pick another house.
Some people may envision that they will be hunkered down in their home or retreat when the grid is down or have a crew to stand guard if venturing out is required. However, I think a more likely future scenario than all-out anarchy is that crime will get a lot worse. Regardless, you will still, in that case, have some incorruptible canine guards for the house while you are away, which will be invaluable.
I have learned many useful skills, such as making my own laundry soap. This soap costs a fraction of buying it and works just as well. I have not bought commercial laundry soap in more than three years, probably saving myself at least $200. I probably spend less time making it than I would by actually going to the store to buy it every time I need it. I make it by grating up a bar of Fels Naptha soap  and boiling it in water until to dissolves. Then I put about four gallons of water in a five-gallon bucket, add the soap, add a cup of washing soda , and add a cup of Borax . Let it sit overnight, and you’ve got about four and half gallons of laundry detergent for the cost of about $2.
When I first started doing this, Borax was the only one of ingredients I could find in a store. I ordered the soap and washing soda through the local Ace Hardware. Now I have noticed all three ingredients are now available at my small neighborhood grocery store, as well as the larger Krogers farther away. If you can’t find it, I would try checking somewhere like Ace, where they can have it shipped without charge. You can buy it straight from online, but the shipping costs would reduce your savings. It’s funny to me when I see people showing videos online of their stored items and they have all these commercial laundry soap containers taking up space when they could buy these ingredients, store them in a five-gallon bucket, and probably have a lifetime supply.
Overall, the greatest benefit of emergency preparedness is that I have become a more forward-thinking person. My job requires me to go certain places and have certain things, and previously I would not always have all the things I needed. However, I now think farther ahead and don’t wait until I get there to see that I don’t have something. For example, just this past weekend I took a few moments to check my car’s spare tire to make sure it was pumped up and to make sure the jack and all its parts were in working order. Five years ago, I would have been checking that only when I was broken down on the side of the road with a flat tire.
Another thing I did early on, which cost nothing, was storing up water in my house. I buy orange juice in clear plastic bottles, and whenever one gets empty, I clean it, fill it with water, and stash it somewhere in the house. It wasn’t very long after I started doing it that I woke up one morning and there was no water. I found out later there had been a problem with the line nearby and the city was working on it. I was lamenting that I was going to have to go to work without a shower or brushing my teeth, when I suddenly remembered I had a stash of water. So I was able to wash up in the sink and brush before I left. This made for a much better day at work.
Perhaps most important, I have become a healthier person. I believe one of the most overlooked aspects of gridless survival is physical fitness. It’s going to take a lot of work to survive. When the grid is down, I would put my money on a physically fit person who has done nothing to prepare over an obese person with a houseful of guns and food. Although I can’t say it has been entirely the reason, the thought of trying to survive in an anarchist environment has definitely been a motivator in the fact that I have quit smoking, quit drinking, and started working out almost daily.
I could keep going, but I will sum it by saying that having a preparedness mindset has changed my life quite a bit for the better. I am grateful to the many people who have posted informative YouTube videos, blogs such as this one, and written books. I know many people think we sit around fearing the future, but I feel very much the contrary. I feel better about the future every time I do something to be more ready for it. Putting effort into ensuring that you survive is a sign of good mental health, because it means you have a love of life, even if it gets bad.