The “Smart” Prepper: Purchasing With A Purpose, by L.D.M.

I was turned onto the idea of prepping about two years ago, and thankfully, shortly thereafter, found SurvivalBlog.com. This website has been one of many important and cherished resources to a “rookie prepper,” and I count it a true blessing to have so much shared knowledge at our fingertips.

One of the many important resources that I have found in SurvivalBlog.com are the advertisers on the site. In a digital world full of endless choices when it comes to preparedness supplies, it can be very daunting to not only decide WHAT you need and in what quantity you need it but where you can find the best quality for the best price. When I first began my journey into the world of prepping, I threw caution to the wind. Like so many, I spent a ton of money on things I would find online, without truly understanding its applicability to my own situation or the cost/value benefit. To be certain, I came into a lot of quality product from some great companies. Many of those companies, which I found right here on SurvivalBlog.com, have been a regular and important part of my access to important resources. I feel a real sense of trust in the quality of company that JWR and his team allow to advertise on the site. I’m confident that I can deal with any one of these advertisers with complete peace of mind in knowing I’m buying quality product from a quality vendor that has been vetted by the SurvivalBlog staff. That alone eliminates a lot of guesswork and shooting blind when it comes to deciding where and with whom to do business.

For those of you who have read all of JWR’s books, you know that How To Survive the End of the World As We Know It (HTSTEOTAWKI) is the prepper’s bible. I have read and re-read that book many times. I often turn to it in reference for things, like battery information and how to use dry ice in packaging long-term bulk storage. One of the biggest “take aways” from the book for me has been the importance of creating a real balance in not just WHAT you store but how you come about those storage items. JWR makes many an excellent recommendation in the book about websites and vendors to call on for certain product. He also gives some great lessons on how to do it yourself when it comes to sourcing and procuring preps. For those few who are reading this who have limitless financial resources when it comes to your preps, you can count yourself blessed but not immune to the dangers of avoiding this balance I speak of.

Take the guy who has an endless supply of cash to spend, who we’ll call Prepper #1. He orders the pre-packaged one-year food supply for $5000 from a great, reputable dealer. It’s delivered right to his garage, packaged nice and neat on a pallet, and he doesn’t have to lift a finger until disaster strikes. He is the same guy who buys the $1500 pre-made BOB from another online vendor, who has taken all of the guesswork out of “what” to include in a quality BOB. He receives it from UPS, throws it in his car, and fearlessly awaits the day it’s called into action. The disadvantage that Prepper #1 finds himself in is that he has not truly prepared for anything. He has ordered product that he didn’t have any hand in sourcing, that will sit quietly and await disaster. His BOB contains a great tool for sawing branches and cutting trees, but much to his dismay, it won’t do him any good. He lives in the middle of a large urban neighborhood with no trees for 20 miles. His “bug out” scenario would be very different than someone who lives in the Texas hill country.

His neighbor, Prepper #2, who must budget what and when he spends on prepping carefully, amasses the same year supply of food, except he doesn’t order it pre-packaged in one lot. He makes several smaller orders each paycheck, carefully selecting what food he is going to store. He knows his children won’t eat peas and his wife is averse to nuts. He knows that the family loves to gather around the kitchen together every Sunday and bake bread for the week ahead. They eat mashed potatoes with every meal, but one of the kids won’t drink milk. He would be doing his family’s comfort and safety a disservice to order product and food that wouldn’t get eaten in times of disaster. He has discovered that not only can he not afford to buy larger, pre-packaged food stores, he SHOULDN’T buy that way. He makes use of both Internet and local brick-and-mortar businesses, as well as DIY projects to prepare for his family. He spends time researching not only the best products but the “best bang for his buck”. After all, he has to budget carefully every dollar he spends on his preps.

Both of these men are preparing for disaster, and both are legitimate ways in which to do so. I would argue that Prepper #2 will be far more prepared and comfortable in a SHTF scenario. Not only will he have on hand what his family needs and wants, he will have gone through the process of putting it all together piece mill. He will be familiar with the do’s and don’ts of long-term food storage. He will understand that a case of hard red wheat does you no good without a quality mill and that powdered milk and drink mixes will be just powder without a supply of drinking water. He is less likely to lose to waste and expiration and will likely have a more holistic approach to all of his preps.

For many of us, the Internet has become an important, if not primary, resource for acquiring our preps, but that doesn’t mean that all of your purchasing should be had from online vendors. Take this personal example. (As a disclaimer, I am not a member of the Mormon church, but they welcome non-members with open arms, as their church doctrine includes a lot on preparing for the hard times.) In an Internet search recently for dealers of bulk grains, I found countless resources online. However, I just couldn’t understand why a 5-pound bucket of hard red wheat costs so much. After reading JWR’s HTSTEOTAWKI, I knew that bulk storage of grains, oats, and beans was by far the cheapest route for these types of foods. I searched further, refusing to resign to the fact that $75 was my only option for one bucket of wheat. I stumbled upon the LDS Cannery in Carrollton, Texas. The LDS church has home storage centers located all over the country, but this is one of twelve home storage centers operated by the Mormon church in the United States that also allow you the opportunity to package bulk products that you purchase there. Lo and behold, one of them was a 15-minute drive from my home. (You can find information about these centers at www.providentliving.org.) All of these centers have packaged and bulk products as well as very friendly volunteers, who will show you around and help you decide exactly what you need. I left there with 100 pounds of hard red wheat and 100 pounds of sugar for $76. I went straight home, and using the method described in HTSTEOTAWKI (Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and dry ice), stored them in food grade, 5-gallon buckets with gamma seal lids. These are absolutely good for the next 30+ years. The buckets I purchased from Amazon using my Prime membership (a must if you order online; $99 gets you a year’s worth of free 2-day shipping on everything you order). The gamma seal lids, Mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers I purchased from one of the SurvivalBlog.com advertisers, and the dry ice I picked up from the grocery store up the street. The total cost per bucket (including the bucket, bags, lids, and food) of wheat was about $25 and $30 for the sugar. That gives me 100 pounds of food at a fraction of the cost of a pre-packaged solution for 30 years. Now, THAT is piece of mind!

Take a “medical” bag as another example. I had amassed many medical and first aid items over the past couple of years, and I recently decided it was important to create a medical or “trauma” bag. The Internet and SurvivalBlog.com advertisers offer some EXCELLENT solutions for pre-made and loaded first aid bags and kits. Many of us are not medical professionals and really wouldn’t have the slightest clue what items we might need in event of an emergency. For those of you who are most comfortable not having to think about it, this is a great resource for you. However, believing that first aid and medical supplies will be in very short supply when SHTF, it was important to me to not only familiarize myself with what would comprise my supply but to ensure I was getting it at the best prices possible. That likely meant not ordering everything from one source. I have found that by doing some diligent searching on Amazon, it is usually the best place to acquire over-the-counter medications. (Again, don’t forget, you get free shipping with Prime). For instance, I take an allergy medication every single day and will for the rest of my life to prevent excessive itching. In a grid down scenario, going without that simple OTC allergy medicine would be unbearable for me. This particular medication is also one of the most expensive OTC allergy medications on the market, so it was important for me to avoid just stocking up at the local pharmacy. After some searching on Amazon, I found that there was a generic brand that made 365-count bottles for about the same price I pay at the local pharmacy for a 90-count bottle. Things like ibuprofen and cough medicine can also be sourced online from reputable vendors for far less than you will purchase it on your weekly grocery shopping trip. I found bulk packages of Band-Aids, burn creams, antiseptic wipes, and all of the “run of the mill” items you would want in a first aid kit at very low costs online. However, I also ordered a pre-packaged and inexpensive “trauma kit” to include as a part of my larger kit from another SurvivalBlog.com advertiser. I felt that the items they put together in this kit for gunshot wounds or severe trauma were a great value and a “must have” addition to my larger kit. When searching for latex gloves, I found that prices for the same product were all over the board. Take some time to save yourself some money when doing this shopping. The money you save here and there can only add more to your preps.

Water is one of my highest prepping priorities. I live smack dab in the middle of Dallas, Texas, and while I’m familiar with where to access water in my area when SHTF, I don’t’ have access to gravity-fed streams or underground water sources. I have no choice but to truly plan ahead and have large water stores that are both permanent and portable. When I first began prepping, I began to order cases of canned water online. They promised long storage life, were convenient with a small footprint, and seemed to make sense. This cost about $50 for 12 cans, which are 2 gallons of water. More recently, I had seen some great products on the market lately for water storage, including water bricks and large bags that can go under your bed. However, it was important for me to find a solution that would be large enough to supply my needs in a bug in scenario and also be portable in a bug out scenario. Most importantly, they needed to save me some money. After diligently searching online, I found some high quality 7-gallon containers with a removable spout and strong handles for carrying. The price for this exact item ranged online from $14.95 to $29.95 each. Pay close attention to whether or not shipping is included or free, and even whether they are in stock or backordered. I elected to go with the item priced at $17.95 each with free shipping. I have ten of these particular jugs, totaling 70 gallons of drinking water. It is an important addition to my barrels and bottles that are also a part of my preps. Because of a little diligence, I now can get 21 gallons of water (three of the 7-gallon jugs) for the same price as I was getting 2 gallons (12 cans) before. Now, let me be clear, the canned water is a quality and superior product for SOME applications. This is why a one-size fits all approach to prepping is impossible. You have to decide, after careful and purposeful thought, what suits your needs best and what type of situation will you find yourself in when SHTF.

The concept of purchasing with a purpose can even extend into your training and acquisition of new skills. Recently, I decided (after re-reading Patriots– a novel by JWR) that I would get my Ham radio license. I don’t have a particular interest in Ham radios as a hobby, but you bet your tail I believe in the importance of that type of communication in a grid down scenario. Not knowing the first thing about where to start that journey, I went online and found that locally a number of classes are offered to prepare you for the FCC Technician Class exam. (This is the first Ham license you will get.) In addition, I found a number of online classes for $59 and up that offered to prepare you for the same exam. After doing a little more research and e-mailing my local Ham radio club, I decided to purchase the book Technician Class online for under $20, with free shipping. This book has a unique approach to preparing you for the exam, eliminating the need for a “how to” course at a traditional brick and mortar type center. Now, truth be told, if you are interested in the nuts and bolts and “ins and outs” of the radio world and have an interest in Ham as a real hobby, you might then want to take a more in-depth course of learning, as this method is primarily meant to prepare you to pass the test and get your license, which is required to communicate on Ham radios. For my purposes in adding this “skill” and equipment to my overall prepping plan, it was perfect. I plan on taking the exam within the next week or so. (There are exams given every single week almost everywhere in the entire country. To find an exam location in your area, go to www.arrl.org.) After passing the exam, it’s time to purchase my first Ham radio. My suggestion is to talk to some Hams in your local area. (Again, go to www.arrl.org to find your local Ham radio club.) Get their suggestions on what to purchase, based on your skill level and needs. Don’t be afraid to tell them WHY you got into Ham radio. Hams live for assisting with emergency communication and being a part of disaster relief. You will be welcomed with open arms and make a lot of new friends who likely share the same ideas that you do when it comes to preparedness. Once you decide on your radio, you have two options– get back online and price shop till you drop (SurvivalBlog.com has an electronics page with links to some of these radios from Amazon, and using these links gives a little bit of financial support back to SurvivalBlog.com) or go down to your local radio shop and allow them to help you. The benefit to using a local radio shop is that once you decide on and purchase a radio, they can usually pre-program some of the popular repeater channels that are used in your area, so you can begin communicating with other Hams right away.

The Internet can and should be a very powerful and useful tool for your preps. For those of you who are more averse to using the Internet for shopping, whether it be due to inexperience or plain ole’ stubbornness, you will do yourself and your family a favor by harnessing the money-saving power the Internet has to offer you. Also, for those of you who don’t ever look beyond the Internet, you will miss incredible resources, like the LDS Cannery I found by reading through some local discussion forums online. Striking a balance in your preparedness planning is as important as balance in your marriage and family lives. SurvivalBlog offers us convenience and comfort in the advertisers they bring on board. I show my support to these companies every chance I get; after all, it is their dollars that allow this important website to function. However, I also know that you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket, and there are many different resources out there that should be included as a part of your prepping.

When you purchase, purchase with a purpose. Be comfortable knowing that you have researched, planned, and purposely bought and acquired what you need, with the smallest impact on your wallet as possible.

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