Whether you are preparing for SHTF or just the next big storm, there are some practical things that all of us should pay attention to. We talk about the foods that should be stored and the proper way to actually store them and many folks also discuss security and weapons at length. Yet even those of us who have been at this awhile forget the obvious. Beginners become overwhelmed by all the flashy things like how to dehydrate or can foods but no one bothers to help them with the practical. Maybe this post will help some of you!
So you have all that wonderful food stored. The next big storm hits, the power goes out. Hmmmm. Everyone is hungry – how are you going to open that can of soup or tuna to feed everyone? Not all cans come with pop tops. Sure, you can spend some energy by rubbing that can weld on the top edge along the cement curb to break the weld and open a can – but do you really want to do that in subzero weather or pouring rain and 120 mph winds? Those preps should include a couple of manual can openers! Ones with the ability to pop tops off bottles are handy. Having a generator or two and chain saws, propane stoves, or kerosene heaters are all obvious on the prepper wish list but how about we look at the need for some less glamorous items.
During Hurricane Andrew I was employed at a local home center store more than 2 hours from the storm center. Yet by the day after the storm we were inundated with shoppers who were sent to the store by friends and family to purchase things they couldn’t find locally. Things like extra chains and carburetors for those chain saws and oil! Extra gas cans were also big on the list. Then came requests for another hammer so more than one person at a time could pound nails. Even screwdrivers were on those shopping lists. A wrench or drill comes in handy for repairs or rebuilding. More importantly those shoppers were not looking for electric tools but manual ones. Nails, duct tape, trash bags will all be handy for those home repairs along with tarps.
Many preppers are concerned that so many common items are imported, particularly many from China. Yet the reality is that were the SHTF scenario come to be reality, those imported items are only the tip of the iceberg for most of us. Consider that the US in divided into regions. Think locally. The reality will be that gas will not be readily available to transport items from across the country. This won’t be just the bananas making it to Wisconsin that will be a problem. Feed for livestock will be an issue if the seeds to grow it and the tools to plant and harvest it aren’t available. Cutting wood means saws and axes to chop the wood to useable sizes. Maybe you aren’t planning on wood heat but eventually you may need it to cook outside on a fire pit. So when you shop for that saw or axe, you should also think in terms of how to sharpen them later. Pieces of chain and key locks or padlocks will be useful to lock doors, generators, bikes, etc. – anything you don’t want others to steal. Bolt cutters will also come in handy in case a key is misplaced! Screen repair kits and caulking for windows are other handy items.
Consider also how many items we use on a day to day basis that we take for granted. One handy experiment is for you and family members to write down everything you use within a 24 hour period. Start with that pen or pencil you use! Then note the paper – and the ink refill for the pen – and the pencil sharpener. How about scotch tape? Go through the home or work office and think of the manual items to replace all the electric ones. As you begin to plan, remember we are considering what you will not be able to purchase later. Things like staplers, staples, paper clips probably won’t be around or rubber bands. Elmers Glue and Krazy Glue will also be appreciated more than mixing old fashioned flour and water paste! I am not suggesting to stockpile as if you were replacing Office Depot but perhaps stocking a home office to last that year or two at least. Notebooks of one type or another will be useful – many of you will want to keep a diary or journal to share with others in family later. Try to remember that dictionary too! While at it, build a home library of how-to books for the projects you will be needing to do – no Internet if no electricity!
Let’s explore the kitchen for a moment. We mentioned the can opener and bottle opener. How about an egg beater because that fancy Kitchenaid won’t work without electricity? Blenders will also be non-functional. Old fashioned grinders will become a useful item. You will be happy to have both meat grinders and grain grinders. An extra would be a manual coffee grinder. Speaking of coffee, do you own a percolator or tea kettle? A scale in the kitchen is another nice to own item. Electric carving knives won’t be too useful either so have a good set of knives and a knife sharpener or two around. Remember to also store matches. The Zippo lighters are good substitutes also but they will need flints and lighter fluid so stock those along with the lighters. So you have stored a bit of rice and beans and other interesting food items like oatmeal and cornmeal. The usual pots and pans may not be adequate for cooking. Cooking enough rice to be the main portion of a meal will mean a larger pot because rice swells as it cooks. The same for beans and oatmeal. For those of you who do not purchase cast iron, plain soap like Ivory rubbed on the sides and bottom of a stainless steel pan makes it easier to clean off the soot from using over an open flame like a wood fire. Store soap bars! Brillo won’t be easy to find so think about other forms of pot scrubbers to store also. Common household cleaners will be important to keep bacteria at bay too. Add mop, broom, dustpan to the list. One of the easiest ways to stock up is to go to some garage sales. Most folks aren’t interested in purchasing old can openers or manual egg beaters or even old kitchen knives. One good Saturday and twenty dollars is sure to add back-ups to your back-ups for those kitchen utensils.
Those battery operated items like clocks will be difficult to keep going so it would be nice to have a manual wind-up clock. Dryers and washers won’t be functioning without electricity or water power (that runs on electric too, remember) so pack away some clothespins and clothesline! If you want to use oil lamps (which can use even rancid cooking oil to burn) don’t forget extra lamp wicks for them. Candles are also handy to stock but you can use solar lights to avoid fires. Have small fire extinguishers and plenty of baking soda to help put out small fires! Will you use a bike? Then remember bike repair tools like tubes and air pump. Patch kits will be handy too. Have some rain gear handy including boots and umbrellas.
Realize that you and any children will get bored with day to day monotony of surviving. Take time out to relax and to play. Find ways to make any chores fun. Sit with a cup of tea and watch your chickens frolic – or watch your little ones play outside for a bit. Everyone will need their Vitamin D replenished so get some sunshine! Stock board games and playing cards along with some simple toys like jacks, balls, jump ropes. Those Game Boys will die out pretty quick! Have a library of fun books to read as well as survival and how-to books. Again lots of folks sell cheap books at garage sales!
One of the most important items to have on hand will be a bible or other spiritual book. Ahead of time make sure you are living your faith daily – simply talking it and not practicing it will not help in times of stress. Prayer will be a great help in those dark times. Having a group who prays with you and reads the bible with you will be invaluable. Make time every day to study and pray – no matter how busy you are with the chores necessary for surviving, those few moments of prayer and reading The Word will do more to boost your morale than anything else will. Some of you are not necessarily Christians or Jewish – so follow your own faith – or for those who are not religious, find a way to meditate or use yoga to de-stress often.
Remember we want to not break the budget and not create more stress in all of this!