At one point in time, every survival/preparedness minded person had empty shelves. There were no storage barrels of water. No itemized inventories of canned goods with expiration dates. No gun lockers stocked with ammo. No sections of the garage where winter survival kits switch out with summer kits each season. And no 40 acres of land with the detailed plan of the ULTIMATE retreat. What was there was the thought that no matter how good times appeared, we needed to prepare for when times were not.
Last year, the federal debacle in the Gulf Coast area before and after Hurricane Katrina has sent many people to thinking that it is probably NOT a good idea to trust in FEMA to help them out of a jam. Since the year 2000, nationally, we have seen terror threats carried out in the form of 9/11, natural disasters as bad as 2005’s hurricane season, fears of pandemics in the form of Bird Flu and overtones of impending economic collapse due to “housing bubbles”, GM layoffs, crude oil prices and the like. This has pushed many families to consider protecting themselves for both long and short term “disasters”.
The entire matter of planning can be a daunting task, as well as appearing to be too much of a strain on ones finances. It goes against the preparedness mindset to dump your family into financial misery. So how does one begin to make preps without breaking the bank, or on a shoestring budget??
Well, first, allow me some of your time and I will pass on some ideas to get your ball rolling. During the course of this blog I will pass on pearls of wisdom I have gleaned from many sources including reference materials, trial and error, and people who have been preparing for much longer than I have (and in some cases, long than I have been breathing). My goal is to show you that you don’t need a million dollars worth of disposable income to protect you and/or your family. I’ll try to show how to raise some cash, save some money, and re-budget finances so you can get the most bang for your buck, as well as where to find some of those necessary items for cheap or better yet FREE. So let’s get going!!!!!
If you are like most people you have done a little research and have found yourself inundated with lists that have been compiled by various sources for “what you NEED”. The first thing that one should do is NOT list what they need, but what they have. You may be very surprised to find what you have tucked away in attics, garages and that ambiguous hall closet that becomes the catch-all for stuff you have no other place for. I am sure you will find many useful preparedness items scatter through your home. The fact that they are randomly found around the house points to lack of following the first cardinal rule of preparedness. Organization. Take a physical inventory of what you have in your homes. Divide this list into the following categories: Food and Water, Shelter and Clothing, Light and Heat, Tools and Gear, Personal Protection, Communications, and “Crap to Get Rid Of” (ya didn’t think I was going to slip in that this inventory was also a “Spring Cleaning” scenario did ya). These categories are, in some cases broad in scope, but this is only an initial inventory and can be adjusted to fit your needs at a later time, but it is a good place to start. Also, the inventory (and subsequent cleaning) will prepare you for organizational projects as you move closer to preparedness.
I will touch on each of these categories in later blog entries in more detail, but for now, let’s take a quick look at each of them.
Food and Water
Start in your kitchen and inventory you cupboard. See how much you have of what and make sure to note the expiration dates. Make notes as to what items are most frequently used by your family. This way you are able to plan for how much of a particular item you wish to have on hand when building your stock to one week, one month or one year. Take this time of inventorying your food stocks to organize your cupboard. Group together, canned fruits, canned vegetables, soups etc. Note the nutritional values of your foods. Do you, like many American families, have too many empty calories there? This is an excellent place to note where changes can be made and money saved. Junk food can eat up a food budget (no pun intended).
When it comes to water, make note of your resources. Does your refrigerator have a filtration system or do you have one within your plumbing system? How many gallons is your hot water tank? Does your house have a cistern (probably not unless it is an old house)? How does the water drain from your gutters and do you have the space to construct a water reclamation system from rain runoff? Do you have a well or city water? Do you have another source of water, such as a lake, pond, swimming pool or river on your property? Where do you have space to store bottled water?
Shelter and Clothing
Inventory your closets. Note your clothes that would serve useful in the elements. Note items that will provide warmth and dryness. Don’t forget footwear (socks and shoes). Take this time to rid your closets and dressers of those things you don’t wear, can’t fit into, or just plain needs to be destroyed (no matter how much fashion runs in cycles, the red leather jump suit, or the hot pink parachute pants need to go).
This is a good time to mention one of our money makers. If you have designer clothes that you are ridding yourself of, try taking them to a consignment shop. Most shops will ONLY take name brand clothes, so don’t bring in the Wally World left over’s. When taking the clothes to the consignment shop, keep in mind that; one, you may have to wait a couple of months to see payment, and two, that the shop will take a cut. However, it is a chance to make some cash. The second use of old clothes is the old, faithful, garage sale. I’ll talk garage sales later on but for now……use the clothes for a little extra green. If you don’t need to scrape up some extra money through the sale of your old clothes, don’t forget that a donation to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or a charitable thrift store is tax deductible and will pay itself off on April 15th.
Light and Heat
When looking at what you have in this category, there are a lot of items you may overlook. The obvious items are candles and flashlights for light, and space heaters, blankets, or fireplaces for heat. There are items you have in your house that may not seem to fit in here but do.
Packages of fire-starters can get expensive. However, making your own is rather frugal. A package of cotton balls and a jar of petroleum jelly at the Dollar Store will cost you $2.00 and will yield you close to 100 individual fire-starters. Old candle ends from the holidays or power outages can be recycled into new candles, or combined with sawdust from a workshop to make effective fire-starters. You may find books of matches lying around in junk drawers. While these are poor for keeping in your pocket for emergency fire lighting do to dampness, cutting the tips off and adding them to the sawdust/candle fire-starters goes a long way to easy ignition. Melted, left over candle ends also are excellent for dipping “strike-anywhere” matches to make them water proof. You may have seen “buddy burners” mentioned in discussion groups or on web pages (as well as for sale on E-Bay). They are easy to construct from empty tuna or pet food cans, old cardboard boxes and candle wax. All of these ideas are cheap, or free from recycling. Don’t worry; again I will go into much more detail on how to do the above mentioned ideas in later blog entries.
Another area to not forget in your inventory, if you have a heavily wooded property (or even a sparsely wooded one), tree trimmings provide an excellent source of firewood. Each summer, take inventory of what trees have dead limbs to be removed and get to work the following fall. The larger parts of the limbs are saved for fire use, the small twigs and thin limbs can be chipped for compost piles (wood chips add the carbon component to a good compost, grass and leaves the nitrogen), as mulch to landscape with or for kindling. Whichever way, doing the work yourself, as opposed to hiring a service or buying mulch/wood chips, will save some more money. One word to the wise is, “BE CAREFUL!!” Do not over extend your reach, or climb where there is a chance you will fall and use care with chain saws. You don’t want to begin needing to use your preps because you are laid up in a body cast or without an arm or leg.
Tools and Gear
This is a very broad category, but this is simply an inventory of what you have in your home. It will help to organize your tools, see what needs repair or replacing, and what items you can look to purchase or SELL in a garage sale. Don’t discount something as not survival/preparedness related.
When looking over your tools, see what you have that are duplicates that you can build repair kits with to put into your vehicles. You don’t want your only Phillips screwdriver in your trunk when you need it to fix something on the furnace, so only compile kits from surplus tools or purchase if you have the means.
This inventory is also an excellent time to take stock in any camping gear you may have. Again, this is the perfect time to see what needs repair or replacement. Remember that you want to be able to have enough for your whole family. If Dad and the boys are the campers, you still need enough equipment for Mom and the girls.
For those who have firearms, I hope you already have an accurate inventory, and maintain your weapons. If you don’t, then you shouldn’t have any! However, this inventory will give you another chance to make sure what and where everything is. This will also help by having a hard copy of your inventory for ALL of the family to know where everything is kept in the event that you yourself cannot let them know (this also holds true for the rest of your stockpile of food, tools, clothes, etc). As with other areas, do not discount something as a personal protection devise. An aluminum baseball bat may not be the best if held at gunpoint, but against an unarmed assailant, it sure beats your bare hand and it also helps those in your family or group who are not yet trained in the uses of your firearms.
Items to look for in this category include: radios, cell phones, weather radios, CB radios, computers, PDA’s, two way radios (FRS/GMRS handhelds), even a kid’s pair of ‘walkie talkies’, ANYTHING that you could possible use to communicate with your group/family or the outside. When looking at your telephones make sure that you have at least one telephone hard wired to your phone service. During a power outage you cannot use cordless phones or recharge your cell phone. When a power outage occurs, telephone service is still usually working as long at the unit is hard wired. For wide scale interruptions, you may have no use of cellular or land line use. The other methods of communication will be invaluable. Remember to maintain batteries and back ups.
“Crap to Get Rid Of”
You will find that in the course of your inventory you will come upon a lot of things you may wish to rid yourself of for the sake of space or utility. Do what you can to get the most out of them. Try garage sales, EBay, or a local consignment shop. If the items are in good condition you may also want to willingly give them away via outlets like “Craig’s List” or “Free-Cycle”. If you aren’t aware of these organizations, I will definitely fill you in on them as they will be frequent sources for free goods. Of course, you can also donate them to your local charities for the tax deduction as well.
To sum up this first entry, when beginning your preparedness supplies use what you already have. Your household inventory should yield a treasure trove you didn’t realize you had. Take the time to organize your home so you can easily find your gear and food stuffs. Be prepared to work for yourself to make or gather needed supplies. Preparing for the worst doesn’t have to deplete your funds, open eyes and busy hands will fill needs to build you own “Must Have List”.