By: Matt in the Midwest
I enjoy prepping. I value independence, self-sufficiency, and taking responsibility for myself. I consider it a hobby with perks. I like growing my own food, canning, hunting, shooting, reusing or repurposing materials. I love reading apocalyptic fiction as well as survival nonfiction; homesteading (free homesteading guide), organic gardening, Mother Earth News, Outdoor Life, Guns and Ammo.
But I also live in the “real” world of having a wife, 2.5 kids, full-time job, a mortgage, car payments, vacations, soccer, baseball, and gymnastics. Trying to find a balance or better yet an “integration” of the two worlds is what I try to achieve. Not everything can fit in both worlds. But I use this as a guideline. The more integrated I make prepping into my life the more I can work towards being prepared. Here’s how I do it.
Where to start? That depends on you, your family, cash flow, and interest. I’ll describe my situation and where I’m at. I’m not saying this is the only way or the right way. Just saying this is how one man and family is doing it.
I consider our basic needs and multiply to broader situations or applications. Some categories to consider Water, food, shelter, security, communication, medical, transportation. Get the basics in place then add to each area. Look for ways to work on preps as you go about your “normal” life.
I avoid putting too much emphasis on long term, unlikely to use, hope I never have to use it items or supplies. I don’t own a bulletproof vest, Geiger counter, or gas mask. Hard to justify this as useful in my “normal” world.
When I consider a purchase, I often ask myself, “will I use it now? (meaning in the next 6 months or so). And would it come in handy in 5-10 years if “bad things happen?” I don’t dwell in the doom and gloom issues, but at the same time, a little preparedness goes a long way. If you have the money or see a great deal, by all means, add something off your wish list.
I didn’t think I was really prepping for many years. I had hobbies I enjoyed like hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. I like to reuse things, save money, buy used, repair what I can repair. I also buy bulk when I can. Two for one deals, coupons, dented cans, day-old donuts, whatever.
Along the way, I realized the combination of these activities, and the mindframe of preparedness meshed with what is known as prepping. Adding on to activities you already do is one way of making more progress with your preps.
Thriftiness: I’m a sale shopper. Goodwill, resale shops, yard and estate sales are my favorite places to shop. I once found a new Blackhawk tactical pack at Goodwill for $5. Sold! Saved me $80-100 that one time. Kevlar chainsaw chaps for $8? Sold.
I often walk away empty handed which is fine by me. Buying to just buy isn’t for me. I’m not a big shopper, but if I’m at a pharmacy to get something, I take the time to walk through looking for clearance or sale items.
I’m happy to buy two for one of something I already use like soap, toothpaste, deodorant. Is this prepping? Yes in two senses. I’m purchasing bulk supplies of things I need and will use and second, I’m saving money that can be used for other purchases. One thing I am careful of is not buying things that will go bad before I use them. Check expiration dates. This is the integration or blending of habits or hobbies that I’ve described.
Will I get rid of our old bike trailer even though the kids are too big? Nope, it’s useful for getting groceries or hauling wood on a camping trip. And it folds up pretty flat in the garage. Also good long term to bug out if needed. Again, think short and long term, daily living as well as doomsday living. This item has applications in both worlds.
I try to balance short term and long term gains. Immediate use versus hope to never need. I can’t afford a bunker on 40 acres. But I can make sure our 21’ camper is adequately stocked and maintained, all the time. I don’t store 500 gallons of stabilized gas. But I do keep 5-10 gallons on hand for the lawnmower, chainsaw, truck, and generator if needed.
Do I have 2000 watts of solar panels with batteries? No, but I do have a portable panel and battery charger for my phone, and many sizes of batteries. Also a 20-watt panel for trickle charging our camper batteries. Look for ways to expand what you’re already doing.
Think about what activities you did this week, stores you shopped in. Try to brainstorm ways you could have worked on your preps as you did those same activities. I’m guessing you can come up with some ideas pretty easily.
Family: As I mentioned, I am married with young kids. Does my wife think I’m crazy? Yes, many times. Does she support my interests? Yes, indirectly. She has gone shooting with me, but usually only if we go with friends and she can choose where to eat afterward.
Does she wince when she sees another box on the stoop from Amazon or Midway? Certainly. Do I show her the tool or book I ordered? Yes, kind of. But only after I put away the new mags or Hogue grips in the same box.
If she asks, I can call all those things “hunting supplies,” an innocent synonym for survival supplies. She would go nuts if she looked through all the Rubbermaid tubs in the basement and garage. I hope to avoid that day.
She sees the benefits of growing our own food, reusing or repurposing old materials, camping, canning/freezing our harvest or product of hunting, buying bulk and on sale. These are the easy sells with her.
We do many activities that I consider part of my preps together as a family. We shoot occasionally, garden regularly, fish, go canoeing, camp quite often, cook outdoors, bike, and hike. I consider these great family activities, as well as having additional side benefits of fitness, building skills, food production, navigation, survival skills.
Do I feel that going on a vacation, out of state or out of the country, plane tickets, nice hotels, car rental, etc. is a waste of money? Sometimes. Let’s be honest, most of the time. But my family’s happiness, my wife being happy, us having experiences together, makes us stronger as a whole.
And for short and long term survival, I need us to care for each other, love each other, work together, have fun together, have common experiences.
At times I do feel paying $100 for a dinner out with my wife is an extravagance. And if given a choice, I’d spend it at Cabelas or Natchez. But my wife wouldn’t have it so I accept it and move on. Save in other ways.
Organization of consumables: We use a two pantry system – the first one is what we use daily, weekly, basic ingredients. The second one is more of the same but in quantity, bulk purchases. I don’t buy long term storage items, like # 10 cans of dried corn or MREs.
I might get there eventually but for my family right now, this is not where we’re at. I won’t have the shelf life, but my family will eat what I have because our bulk purchases are an extension of our regular purchases.
We stock the upstairs pantry from the basement pantry, then restock the basement/tier 2 pantry with new purchases. Same system with batteries (a big drawer upstairs and the spares are in a tub downstairs), cleaning supplies, medical supplies.
Same with our freezers. A few items in our fridge freezer. Home frozen meat, fruit, and veg in the deep freeze. In our basement, I just built shelves for store bought and home canned food. Build them strong; food weights a lot. You can adapt this for your situation. Keep food visible, easy to get at and you’ll be more likely to use it, keep it up to date.
I would recommend using this two-tier system for all consumables, not just food. Anything that has a shelf life should be rotated with the oldest used first. Batteries, vitamins, some medical supplies all can go bad over time. Hate to lose money by having to throw it out.
One method is to keep a shelf or cupboard in a bathroom or linen closet for your medical supplies. Then surplus/bulk purchases can be stored in the basement or in a tub somewhere else. Then when you buy 3 tubes of antibiotic cream or 10 toothbrushes, put them in the tub and rotate up to the bathroom the oldest.
A posted inventory list is also very helpful. Just update it as items leave or are added to your designated storage area. Here are some other activities that help me balance or integrate my immediate personal and family needs with possible long term prepper needs:
–chickens – we’ve had between 4 and 20 at different times. Mostly layers but sometimes meat birds. I am no expert, just learned by having them. We’ve lost a fair number to predators but overall I consider them a good investment.
Fresh eggs, compost/fertilizer for the garden, and to be honest, they’re just fun to watch. Very entertaining, quite funny at times. The kids love them. having chickens integrates food source, gardening (chicken poop), and family fun.
–go bags – bug out, get home, 72-hour bag; call it what you will. But should have one for each family member and include the basics: water, food, shelter, security, medical, communication, transportation. Each might be different, should be different, but the basics need to be covered.
We live in the midwest and have 4-5 months of winter with feet of snow and below freezing temps for weeks at a time. I add a winter go bag in addition to my basic one that lives in the truck. It contains mostly extra clothes, candle, pot, hand warmers, snacks. I also add extra tools like two shovels, tow strap, jumper cables. Is this prepping or just being prepared?
–garden – integrates food production, healthy eating, family activity, lifelong skill. Canning and freezing gives us more food on hand in the offseason.
–hunting – fun, kids are beginning to try it out, add food to the pantry as well as a possible barter item. My wife never had wild game before we met but now it’s more normal to eat venison than beef. I have handheld radios to communicate with the guys I hunt with which would be valuable in other situations. An example of blending hunting and communications into my normal life.
–shooting – ties into the hunting, as well as personal defense, family activity, and fun to do with friends or other couples. We will meet up with a few other couples to shoot for an hour or two, then go out to eat. Combines a “prepper” activity with a common social outing.
I guess to some it might seem weird, the shooting part on “date night.” But to us it’s just a social outing and could as easily be a movie or hike in the woods before we go eat.I guess to sum it up, prepping has become part of our lifestyle, not a separate activity. My “normal” life includes work, family activities as well as shooting, canning, gardening, hiking, etc.
I have “blended” or “integrated” those prepper hobbies/activities into my normal life. My wife would never call herself a prepper but loves to garden and camp and is happy I hunt and shoot. I can accept that. Overall I see prepping as one more way for me and mine to be responsible for ourselves.
Personal responsibility is a value I hold dear. Will I ever be done prepping? Not a chance. Because it is not only a list of supplies or a set of skills, but more so a lifestyle I have adopted. So as long as I’m living, I’m prepping.