Note: I wrote this article for a survival blog site back in 2010 – and it is still on his 50 best articles as well as several others I have written. A few things have been updated in this article, as well as some personal information deleted.
One Second After by William Forstchen scared the ‘you know what’ out of me. Not that I didn’t have somewhat of the ‘prepper’ gene in me prior, I have always been someone who kept a really full pantry, telling everyone I must have either starved to death or watched my kids starve to death in a past life. I had a good six months worth of food and water saved before Y2K, which has long since been eaten, and not replaced until a year or so ago.
I only have my one modest income and a fairly high mortgage, so have to prioritize my money. I am continually trying to find ways to prepare as cheaply and efficiently as possible – considering both my money and storage space. I’ve cut back my living expenses everywhere I can so I can buy food for storage – $20 is 50 lbs rice!
When I started, I was so seriously lost about what and how much to store. I got one of those free food storage calculator programs on-line that allow you to figure out how much food storage you would need for ___ amount of people for ___ months (you fill in the details). When I looked at the huge amount of food required for basic survival, it was quite overwhelming. So while I use a year or two of food as a long-term goal, I also broke it down into one month and three months, etc. It is still daunting, but more manageable broken down in smaller amounts of time AND really nice to use as goals for my quiet little celebrations.
Fortunately, you can alter the food storage calculator program adding other foods along with the amounts of those foods that you assume you would need (for example, I use the value of wheat and plug that into rice). So while I do store a lot of wheat, my main storage for filling tummies is white rice and COSTCO carries 25 lb bags for around $10. Note that brown rice, while more nutritious than white, only has about a 6-8 month shelf life before it goes rancid.
The main staple most programs and information on-line seem to use is wheat, which is cheap, versatile and has a VERY LONG storage life. Nice, but I’m allergic to wheat, and I know that many people are either allergic to wheat or gluten intolerant and don’t even know it. Switching to a wheat based diet would KILL many people, and it is not a nice way to die.
Wheat can be sprouted (and I’m not allergic to it after it is sprouted). Home sprouted wheat grass is gluten-free (provided you are careful not to include any part of the seed kernel) makes an excellent mid-winter green, especially good if you have no other and, if dried immediately after sprouting (before it turns green) and ground, it makes malt, both for sweetening and beer making. I bought several cookbooks and How to Live on Wheat by John Hill is probably the best book I’ve read on cooking with home storage wheat.
It is VERY important to make sure your food storage can be used to make fairly familiar foods, I have heard that some children will die rather than continually eat unfamiliar or unpalatable food. Some of my grandchildren are picky eaters, so I now include among my food storage purchases, powered cheese, hot cocoa mix, cocoa powder, Tang – that sort of thing, to make some of the meals sort of what they are used to (taste like junk without being so). Now that I have quite a bit of food to fill tummies, I’m diversifying by adding other types of food and lots of spices in addition to continuing my ‘bulk’ food storage.
Probably the best way to purchase foods for your long-term storage is to buy a few extra of the things you normally purchase for the recipes you use most often. Since many of our favorite recipes revolve around hamburger, I pressure can pints of hamburger for later use.
I found several websites that help me think of the things I along with Food Storage Made Easy’s Baby Steps. Some of the better reference books in my opinion are Crisis Preparedness by Jack A. Spigarelli (heavy on the how’s and what’s of food storage – and food is important folks) and How to Survive the End of the World as we Know it, by James Wesley Rawles. I know that I may not be able to think of everything, nor have the money for it even if I do, so I’m carefully prioritizing and certainly glad so many resources are available to me – and yes, I print stuff I consider important. I cannot rely on having electricity or a computer in the event of an EMP – either man-made or solar initiated.
The Mormons have a lot of information about food storage, and are more than willing to share with non-Mormons like myself. They have taught me to do dry canning of the bulk foods I purchase at the Bishop’s Warehouse, and they have stuff like Hot Cocoa mix that is INCREDIBLY cheap next to buying it in those little 1 oz packages. I also carry in my purse the order form from the Provident Living site. I use it to compare prices while out shopping and mark them down on that order form. There is a Mormon Warehouse in Boise, ID.
I frequent the dollar store for first aid supplies and the feed store for bulk amounts of powdered antibiotics and for re-cleaned wheat and other grains, which may not be as pretty but once rinsed is perfectly acceptable for human consumption. WINCO’s bulk food department is one of my favorite places for beans, legumes, spices, powdered cheese, mashed potatoes, etc., and they will order any of their bulk food items by the case for you, saving you even more – if you have some way to store it (you can buy the mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from the Mormons very cheaply and they seal with an iron). Don’t forget, you need a couple of grain grinders if storing whole grains. I don’t store flours, they go rancid fairly quickly. (Winco, Costco and Cash and Carry all are good places to buy food in large bulk amounts and all are in Nampa, within a few blocks of each other).
Fats were a concern. As much as we think we need to be a fat-free society, fats are necessary to survival. There are many vitamins that require fats for assimilation, not to mention to flavor food and for energy. Most fats do not store for long periods of time without going rancid. Butter flavored Crisco is one potential and I have stored some, but I do not care for hydrogenated fats. I recently found that Ghee – which is clarified butter and has a very long storage life and Coconut oil keep well for long-term storage. I also store peanut butter and know it only has a few years shelf life, but it will keep longer than the ‘best by’ date on the jar. Also, home rendered lard and tallow store for over a year, longer if kept cold, and are actually good for you if you can find the fat from naturally, pasture grown animals that were NOT finished on grain.
My husband and I bought a small hobby farm that was a little neglected. I am replacing the yard full of weeds with medicinal herbs, bushes and I’m making medicinal tinctures, and salves – all so much easier than I ever imagined they could be. I’m now using my apple peels to make vinegar, also very easy and a new tool in my survival toolbox.
I found instructions and patterns for homemade reusable/washable feminine sanitary pads. While I am long past the need for them myself, my daughter and granddaughters are not. It seemed a much easier solution than trying to stock up on year’s worth of these products and they are fairly easy to make. Toilet paper can be replaced with old sheets and towels torn into usable sized pieces. For those of you old enough to remember, baby diapers used to be made out of cloth and washed – and so could your ‘toilet paper’ and feminine products (where do you think the phrase ‘on the rag’ came from?) A year’s worth of toilet paper should come after a year’s worth of food in your priorities, it doesn’t taste very good, is full of chemicals, little to no nutrition – but LOTS of fiber.
I keep an old microwave oven with the cord cut off in the basement for use as a Faraday cage. I store my ham radios there – anything you need to protect in case of an EMP from manmade sources or severe solar flares. Faraday cages can be made of metal trash cans, cardboard boxes fully wrapped in aluminum foil as well I understand, but you can usually find broken microwaves for free and for me the accessibility of being able to just open the door to the microwave to get my radio is attractive.
I took a one day ‘Wilderness Survival 101’ from Sierra Survival – www.sierrasurvival.com. We built shelters to withstand high winds out of plastic with no grommets, learned several different ways to procure safe water, learned to identify numerous plants for making tea-soap-cordage-food-medicine, learn to navigate using five primitive methods, traps and snares, weapons, making fire, knots and rope systems, rescue signals, and tracking. We learned an incredible system on how to keep toasty hot and dry, even if it’s sub-zero, by utilizing the items in my survival kit and small twigs. It was well worth every penny I spent on it, and hiking all over the Sierra Nevada foothills in 105 degree weather.
I bought a 12-gauge shotgun, and 1000 rounds for it. I knew it might eventually be a necessity, but got a slap in the face when the man I was carpooling with (I’ll call him “Mark”) informed me in a smug tone of voice that he didn’t need to store food for himself or his family, bullets were cheap and had an unlimited shelf life. My son’s and I discussed it, and decided to standardize on guns, so I would only have to purchase types of ammo, .12 gauge shells, .45 and .22. This is the part of ‘prepping’ I like the least but since “Mark’s’ comment, I’ve gotten a little hardened. “Mark’s” comment also helped my choice to purchase a pump shotgun, because I now figure that if the “CLICK CLICK” of my .12 gauge shotgun doesn’t make someone immediately stop in their tracks or turn and run for the hills, they are intent on doing me and mine harm, and yes, I could certainly pull the trigger without a second thought.
Maybe this might not be an issue for you, but another thought I’ve had to deal with is new babies. While I’m long past this possibility myself (thank God), some of the family I am prepping for are still fertile and in a really big SHTF situation, birth control might be a little hard to come by. Sex is fun, and certainly a comfort in stressful times – and as we all know, sex often leads to babies. I still have most of my baby equipment (grandkids) but no one still has any of the small size baby clothing or infant items. Thrift stores and Craigslist have been great for procuring inexpensive or free baby items. My concern is not cute or in perfect, stain free condition, just serviceable items. I’ve also been asking family members to pass on the clothing the grandkids have outgrown and I store it.
Big people clothing is important too – not everyone may come with a bunch – or come with the wrong season’s items, so I’m trying to store some larger sized winter clothing – better warm for all than fashionable for smaller people. I’m not quite as concerned with summer; they can all walk around naked in the summer for all I care. Good serviceable shoes are more important to me and I have not come up with a way to deal with all the different sizes without choosing to buy shoes over food. Maybe I should just buy a bunch of leather hides and a punch tool to make moccasins, or make rabbit skin shoes when I butcher the rabbits.
I bought a bunch of those 5 gal Homer buckets from Home Depot – useful for almost everything, and a rub board for washing clothes. Homemade laundry detergent is very inexpensive, and works well. I have used it exclusively for several years, and it is safe in HD washers. To make homemade laundry soap you need two bars of soap (I use Fels Naptha), 1 cup Washing soda (not baking soda) and 1 cup borax. Grate the soap and dissolve in a pot of boiling water. Add soda and borax to the 5 gal bucket with about a gallon or two of warm water and stir. Once soap is melted, add that to the bucket as well, then fill the 5 gal bucket to within a few inches of the top. In about 6-12 hours this will have gelled and need to be stirred thoroughly, and may need to be stirred the next day as well, as it may have gelled again. That’s it – ½ cup per load of clothes, and it cost you very little to make.
A fairly inexpensive meat source is rabbits, but note that rabbits have very little fat, and you need fat. Rabbits make lots of little babies fairly quickly, and have tasty meat. Start your rabbits right away on grass and hay, so they are used to it, rabbit pellets are expensive and likely not available after a SHTF scenario. Besides, you can pick weeds all summer long, and dry them in the shade somewhere for use to feed the rabbits during the winter. It will even be better for them than the pellets, or you have the option of sprouting wheat for them. That only takes 6 days, and rabbits love it. Come to think of it, sprout some for yourself for fresh nutritious greens during the winter months.
That’s it for now. Leave comments with your own ideas so we can all share the information.
By Michele C