One of my three goals for this year was to begin seriously prepping for a disaster/emergency. If you’re paying attention at all to what’s going on in the world – the increasing major earthquakes and other natural disasters, the stock market teetering on the edge of collapse – you know something’s coming. China’s president told his generals to prepare for war with the USA. Russia has repeatedly threatened us. There are riots and marches in the streets. It’s all happened exactly as the Bible foretold, but even if you’re not a believer, you can see the odds are extremely high of something bad happening in your part of the world, fairly soon. We had a windstorm here before Christmas that knocked out the power to some areas for three days. Now imagine the power is gone for weeks or months – our government is warning us that the power grid is old and vulnerable, and warning us to have supplies to care for ourselves for a minimum of two weeks…but possibly much longer.
With everything that’s going on, it only makes sense to prepare. Does this mean digging a bunker in the back yard and stocking it with gas masks and military-style instant meals? No, there’s a much easier way. I’m making it a goal to put part of every paycheck into buying a few things.
First, and most important is water and food. If you’ve done nothing else, buy a few $1/gallon jugs of water from the grocery store and put them away in a closet or under your bed. Better still is to buy a few five gallon water storage containers from Walmart. If you’re using treated tap water, all you need to do is fill them. If you’re using some other water source, such as well water, you need to add eight drops of bleach per gallon to kill potential bacteria. They say you need about one gallon of water per day in an emergency to drink/cook/wash with. And don’t forget, in a pinch, you can use the water out of your water heater! Because I live in an area with abundant natural water, beside using storage containers, I also bought some water purification tablets. These are super cheap from Amazon.
A water filter is also good. I’m checking into one of those.
For food, I do like some freeze-dried, insta-meals, but I really prefer just stocking up on things I already eat on a regular basis. Instead of buying one can of tuna fish when you go to the store, make a habit of buying at least two, one to eat, and one to store. Make this kind of shopping a regular thing, and you’ll increase your store of food easily and naturally. But if you have the money, watch for sales, and stock up! Buy things you will eat, but things that have a long shelf like. Canned meat, vegetables, and fruit, peanut butter, apple sauce, oatmeal…spend a few minutes walking through your grocery store and looking at the expiration dates. Pasta, beans, and rice are good, as are extra flour and sugar if you normally bake. And then, when you have the food in your pantry, don’t just leave it sitting there, untouched. Eat it, but replace it as you do, and put the newer purchases at the back of the shelf.
But there are a few types of food I do buy in the freeze-dried survival packages. Powered milk, for instance. I’m probably not going to eat this on a daily basis, but it has a long expiration date, and it’s worth it to buy a few boxes or tins just for an emergency. I like Thrive instant milk – it almost tastes like fresh milk, and in cooking you’d never notice. There is also powered eggs, butter, and cheese. Haven’t tried these, but these are all foods that you can’t preserve fresh, and they would be really hard to get in an emergency. Other foods that would be good to have extras of are spices, salt, baking powder, and condiments. You can actually buy the little foil packages of mayonnaise and ketchup that the restaurants use – and unlike the big jars, they don’t need to be refrigerated once opened!
Once you have some food and water, start thinking about other things you might need. If the power went off for weeks or months, what would you need? Heat, light, and a way to cook. I have a wood stove, so I’m good on heat, but having some extra blankets would not go amiss. Buy some lanterns, don’t just rely on flashlights. (Although flashlights are definitely good to have. Hang beside every door in the house. If the lights suddenly go off, you don’t want to be hunting all over to find one!) You can either get battery powered lamps (don’t forget to stock up on extra batteries)
Or oil lamps. (And again, don’t forget extra oil, wicks, and matches!)
Being able to cook hot food is huge. In a pinch, I could cook over my wood stove, but I also have a grill outside (and I’ve stocked up on charcoal), and I just this week purchased a camp stove. This one is good, because I can burn twigs and small pieces of fuel.
It comes apart and packs in a very small box, which is nice.
Another thing to consider is sanitary issues. If you have no running water, and no toilet, keeping clean becomes a priority. Disease was rampant in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I bought extra bleach, anti-septic cleaning products, latex gloves, and wet wipes. I also put away a box of extra heavy duty plastic garbage bags for if things get really desperate….
Also important is a first aid kit, along with any medicine that you normally or occasionally take. Extra pain meds, allergy meds, etc. Keep as much necessary prescription medication on hand as your doctor will allow. One thing to add to your first aid kit is a bottle of super glue. In a pinch, it works to seal together wounds that otherwise would require stitches. Remember, in a true disaster, emergency services will not be available to you for days, if not weeks.
If all of this seems overwhelming, just take it one thing at a time. Every time you shop, buy a few extra things. And make sure you store all your emergency supplies (lamps, batteries, camp stove, etc) in a place where you will be able to find them. Someone I know had his power go out unexpectedly, and couldn’t remember where he had put his candles. It’s hard to rummage through closets and storage boxes when you have no light!