Category Archives for Orientation

The Cheapskate’s Guide to Productive Hobbies

It is vital to take time out of the day to relax.  It rejuvenates you, improves your health, and calms your mind so that you can think more clearly. Relaxation, creative activities, and family time can actually be frugal endeavors, and not distractions that take away from your efforts to make ends meet.

When you have a million and one things to do, though, sometimes it’s difficult to force yourself to stop.  This is because stress releases two hormones into your body: adrenaline and cortisol. Excesses of these hormones can cause blood pressure spikes, food cravings that lead to weight gain, and heart disease, to name just a few of the pitfalls.

So, you’ve got to unwind. You need a hobby.

But not these hobbies.

But beware.  Some hobbies end up costing you money with nothing to show for it.  Lots of people spend their time doing things like playing golf or tennis, going to concerts or night clubs, playing pool in a bar, drinking alcohol with friends, or shopping. All of these things have their place, of course, but as a regular part of your daily routine, they can certainly add up in price. If you already stressed about your finances, these hobbies will give you a brief respite, but in the end, just cause your stress to be worse because of all of the money you’ve spent.

Other hobbies kill off a few brain cells as you sit there, passively entertained in an altered state in front of the television or a video game.  These things may not really cost you a lot of money, but in the long run, they will do little to alleviate stress.

Studies have shown that watching television induces low alpha waves in the human brain. Alpha waves are brainwaves between 8 to 12 HZ. and are commonly associated with … brain states associated with suggestibility…Too much time spent in the low Alpha wave state caused by TV can cause unfocused daydreaming and inability to concentrate….Advertisers have known about this for a long time and they know how to take advantage of this passive, suggestible, brain state of the TV viewer. There is no need for an advertiser to use subliminal messages. The brain is already in a receptive state, ready to absorb suggestions, within just a few seconds of the television being turned on. All advertisers have to do is flash a brand across the screen, and then attempt to make the viewer associate the product with something positive. (source)

Passivity actually opens up the door to your brain and allows you to be programmed – mass media uses this as a tool, by promoting ideas (like gun control, acceptance of the “big brother” philosophy, or the politically correct flavor of the month).  It inhibits your critical thinking skills and leaves your brain craving even more time in this low Alpha state.  This is the reason that some people sit blankly in front of the TV for hours every night, until they fall asleep on the couch and then get up to do it all over again.

It’s important to choose your spare time activities in a manner that enhances your brain function, instead of reducing it.  In a world where, for many, entertainment means playing on your iPhone or sharing photos on Facebook, opting for industry for your downtime can be an unusual choice.  But, stepping outside the path of the herd and choosing productive hobbies is a great way to relax.  What’s more, if your brain is engaged in an activity while you view a television program or movie, then you are not as susceptible to messages, either subliminal or blatant.  This means that you don’t actually have to keep the TV turned off at night – you just need to refrain from zoning out in front of it.

Now, I can’t say that I never indulge in a little bit of binge-watching. I do, on a regular basis. The difference is, I don’t just sit there. (Actually, I’m pretty much incapable of simply sitting there watching something.) I take the time that we spend watching a show to accomplish those mindless things that I just don’t enjoy doing, like mending, organizing my sewing basket, repairing broken items, or completing a frenzy of food prep.

A brief lesson from young Ben Franklin

In 1726, 20 year-old Benjamin Franklin sought to cultivate his character.  He listed off the thirteen virtues that he  believed were important to living a good life, one of which was industry.

Franklin wrote of this characteristic,

“Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”

He believed that the pursuit of productivity would build character and help the practitioner to lead a more successful and moral life.  In his autobiography Franklin wrote, “I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.”

Think back to the days before television.  People worked hard all day long, producing food, cutting wood, cooking, hunting, building…it was a full time job to survive and thrive.  In the evenings, by candlelight, they could stop and put their feet up for a while.  Books were not widely available like they are now, so families passed the time by performing stitchery, carving, making furniture, mending things and creating items that made their lives more pleasant and beautiful. Sometimes a family member would read aloud, play an instrument or sing.  Time was of value and not to be wasted, and there was rarely money to spare on an “evening out”.

Opt for activities that enhance your frugality

Nearly 300 years later, we can apply Franklin’s philosophy of industriousness and productivity to our lives today.  When choosing leisure activities, consider opting for a productive hobby.

It should either…

  • Teach something
  • Create something
  • Repair something
  • Improve something

That leaves the door wide open to a broad range of choices.  If you tend to be an overachiever, then you can relax without the guilt of worrying about all the things that you “should” be doing instead of chilling out. As a longtime student of cheapskatery, I’ve found that most people who are effectively frugal have hobbies which are productive and don’t enjoy wasting time, even leisure time.

Productive hobbies not only improve your brain, but they can better your chances for thriving in a post-SHTF world.  The ability to create or repair something will improve your standard of living and provide you with valuable skills for barter should an economic collapse occur.  Time spent teaching your children these skills will, in turn, pass down arts that would otherwise be lost to generations of the future, while helping your child become a critical thinker and problem solver.

Often your hobby can turn into an additional source of income. Many people have been extremely successful setting up starting their own Etsy empires or participating in the craft show circuit.

Some productive hobbies to choose from…

Not only can some of these hobbies be an enjoyable way to pass the time or add to your economic bottom line, but they can provide beautiful, lower-cost options for gift-giving, which is a frugal bonus.

Not only should you, yourself, be indulging in these pasttimes, but you should be passing these skills on to your children. When you do, you are creating not only useful and lovely items, but irreplaceable family memories. Our living room is full of attractive baskets which all hide the supplies for various crafts and hobbies. Of an evening, you can most often find us creating while a movie or music plays in the background.

  1. Reading
  2. Sewing clothing, curtains, and soft furnishings
  3. Knitting, crocheting, and weaving
  4. Carving
  5. Repairing broken items
  6. Mending
  7. Making soap and other personal care items
  8. Building furniture
  9. Making pottery
  10. Cooking and baking
  11. Writing
  12. Drawing and creating art
  13. Playing an Instrument
  14. Singing
  15. Making cards
  16. Making jewelry
  17. Fletching
  18. Gunsmithing
  19. Making ammo
  20. Welding and soldering
  21. Learning a language
  22. Caring for animals
  23. Playing a word, math or strategy game
  24. Marksmanship (archery and firearms)
  25. Exercise
  26. Gardening
  27. Preserving food
  28. Practicing outdoor skills like hiking, camping, and foraging
  29. Hunting and fishing
  30. Automotive repair

What are your productive hobbies?

This list is certainly not comprehensive. If I’ve left off your favorite spare time activity, take a couple of minutes to tell us about it in the comments section. How do you unwind?  What do you like to do in your spare time?

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* Get Your Prepping On Track With the 3 List System

To hear some survival experts talk, if you don’t spend a lot of money on getting prepared, you’re dead meat. Well, I disagree. In fact, some of the most effective things you can do to get ready for an uncertain future are completely free, and if not free, then very inexpensive.

The problem for most of us is keeping track of getting prepped in 3 different areas: things we need to learn, things we need to do, and finally, things we need to buy. For the most part, the learning and doing are free. It costs nothing to clear out closets, cabinets, and cupboards, to make room for stored food and water. Watching YouTube videos and learning how to properly store wheat in a bucket is free.

When it comes to the list, To Buy, it’s highly likely you will find that you already own a few of the items on the list and forgot you had them! It’s just as likely you’ll find many items in thrift stores and at estate and yard sales. That’s the beauty of the list. It keeps you on track for what is most necessary, away from the lure of all the products sold on survival websites.

So, either download our SPI 3-list printable or grab a piece of paper, divide it into thirds and begin making notes.

List #1: To Learn

On this list you’ll keep track of skills and knowledge you realize will be important. A few examples on my own list are: Learn to tie various knots and know when to use them; work on creating recipes from my food-storage ingredients; and push my knitting skills to a higher level and knit a pair of socks.

Interestingly, many items on this list won’t cost a dime. If your budget is already strained, and buying even a few extra cans of tuna is a stretch, put more time and energy into learning skills, gaining knowledge, and seeking out other preppers as resources.

List #2: To Do

Here’s another list that doesn’t have to empty out your bank account. Have you been meaning to compile all your important documents or inventory a garage filled with tools? Do you need to prepare your garden for the spring season?

There are simply dozens of things we intend to do, but they flicker in and out of our minds and are then . . . gone! As you learn more here at SPI, start adding tasks to a To Do list and keep track of what you accomplish. It’s very empowering to see progress, although you will likely never have an empty To Do list!

List #3: To Buy

Although Lists 1 and 2 will keep you busy, there’s really no way around List 3. Stocking up on food, extra toiletries, good quality tools, and other supplies requires money. However, the good news is that a master To Buy list will help set priorities, keep you on budget, and even provide a shopping list when hitting the garage sale circuit.

Without a To Buy list, you may very well find yourself (a) spending money on things you later discover tucked away in a back cupboard or (b) snatching up purchases in a panic. This list helps save money as well as time.

You can thank me later!

Keep these 3 lists handy, in whatever form is easiest for you. The printable, a small notebook, even saved on your smartphone. Evernote is handy for that. When you read a book or article that reminds you that something should be done, learned, or purchased, just add it to your lists, and when you begin feeling overwhelmed, stay focused on the progress you’ve made. You’re already 100% more prepared than nearly everyone else around you!

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OpSec Lessons From a Military Wife (and brat)

It only takes putting a few pieces of a puzzle together to start seeing a clear picture when it comes to OpSec and keeping quiet about certain bits of information.

Lessons learned from Wartime

When the Gulf War started, I was 10 years old and living overseas on a military base. Suddenly, OpSec (Operational Security) became the name of the game and more important than ever.

All the building signs that could be seen from outside the fence were covered in black garbage bags. I was just a child, and I pictured the enemy on top of nearby buildings with binoculars watching our every move and trying to gather information on the activity on the base.

All of this gave me an early lesson on the importance of information, and the lessons continued as my father and husband both served during the current conflicts.

Lessons I have Learned

1. Social media is not secure

As a military wife, information became more important for me to keep secure. Social media is not secure and if I were to announce that my husband was going on a work trip and where he was going, that piece of information could be found and become another puzzle piece for the enemy. Privacy settings should be checked often to make sure they are the most secure. Avoid advertising where you are by checking in places on Twitter and Facebook, which also advertises where you are not (at home).

2. Photos give a lot away

Digital photos often have date stamps on them, but if you take them with a smartphone, they can also have location stamps on them. A seemingly innocent family photo on your front porch can let people know where you live and how many people are in your family. You can go into your phone’s setting and disable the location stamp function. Then if you do post a photo to social media, make sure your settings are as secure as they can be.

3. Beware of eavesdroppers

Watch where you are when you talk as well. I knew military wives that were comfortable talking to other military wives no matter where they were, but restaurants and malls can be full of people who don’t need to know details that military wives know. Be aware of where you are when you talk with your friends about your preps. You may not worry about your friends, but what about their’s if and when they begin repeating what you’ve told them?

4. View through a stranger’s eyes

What information do you give out on your vehicles and house? Does your bumper sticker show how many children and pets you have and where you child goes to school or plays soccer? What would someone know about your family by looking through your trash? Remove, and possibly shred, items that give out information you would rather people not have. Then decide what kind of information you do want to present to a stranger. Large size men’s boots (visible on the porch or in your vehicle), a home security sign, a Marine Corps flag, and an NRA sticker might convey a more powerful message to people driving by than just having potted flowers.

5. Have a family code word

There should be a family code word that someone would have to use to pick up your child from an activity if you can’t make it so the child knows that you sent that person.

6. Parents need code, too

Adults should also have code words or signals for situations that may arise. This can be a helpful way for parents to talk about a situation without alarming the children.

7. What is your story?

I’ve learned that you do not need to lie to keep information secure, but you don’t have to tell all the facts. Be general instead of specific in answers to questions – but make sure your family is on the same page. When a store clerk asks why you are buying 10 pounds of rice, it doesn’t help if you say, “We’re having a party,” at the same time your daughter says, “We try to only go grocery shopping once a month.” Answers should have at least some truth to them to also make them easier to sell.

8. Children need reasons

You can’t expect to ask your children to not show their friends the basement and then not have them ask you, “Why can’t they know about it?” You will need to take the time to explain to you children why you are asking them to keep some information private.

It’s important to tell them what they can say – “We like to be prepared for emergencies” – and explain to them that it is a family’s private business how much and what food and supplies they have on hand. You can explain to them that just as we close the blinds when we leave the house so people don’t see the TV and want to break in and steal it, we don’t want to advertise all our supplies to people or they may want to come take those for themselves.

9. Don’t drive yourself crazy

Amidst all this, find someone you can talk to. Make sure your children know whom they can safely talk to. Not talking to anyone about anything about your family could start to drive you crazy. There are like-minded people out there and there is no reason to live your life paranoid about every little detail.

There is a balance to be found between being secretive and being open. We should find ways to encourage our friends and family to be more self-sufficient, but we can be careful about how we do it.

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3 Types of Emergencies That Could Happen to Anyone

Not every situation that requires you to be prepped is a doomsday scenario. There are 3 common emergencies that could happen to anyone, but all of the racket from the bunker in Survivalistland can sometimes drown them out. This can make getting started pretty intimidating, paralyzing, even.

Maybe you’re brand new to prepping and not sure where to start. Maybe you aren’t really interested in emergency preparedness but your well-meaning in-laws keep sending you links to websites about the topic.  Maybe you go to those websites and you see so much doom and gloom that you immediately exit. Maybe you say to yourself, “Holy cow, no!  I’m not one of those crazy Doomsday Preppers!”  Maybe you’re the in-law sending the articles and you’re looking for a tamer article to send.

If any of the above apply, then this post is for you.  It’s chock-full of links, supplies, resources, and information for those who are new to preparedness that may not be ready to dive in 100% just yet.

Prepping for Beginners (and Non-Preppers Who Like to be Sensible)

It’s all about what I like to call “prepping-lite”.  It’s for people who aren’t into apocalypse scenarios but who are sensible enough to realize that, well, stuff happens. Remember, prepping doesn’t mean you’re a doom-and-gloomer. It’s actually the ultimate act of optimism!

There are three types of common emergencies that can strike nearly anyone.  These don’t require that you systematically pick apart every episode of The Walking Dead so you can figure out how to survive the impending zombie pandemic. They simply require that you flip on the news every now and then and see that these are everyday situations that can happen to us all.  And since you are wise enough to accept that these things are realistic things that could, at some point, affect you, I hope you’ll take that wisdom one step further and prepare for them.

Water Emergencies

The last year was a bad one for water emergencies. Remember the chemical spill in West Virginia that left hundreds of thousands of residents without safe water for a more than a week?  The toxin in the water was so potent that it couldn’t be used for bathing or basic cleaning, much less consumption.  Shortly after that, more than half a million people in Cleveland, Ohio were left without running water because agricultural runoff caused and algae bloom that tainted the municipal water supply.

In both of those situations, store shelves were rapidly emptied of water in every form. Families who didn’t make it to the store on time were left to drive for hours to find water, or to wait while the National Guard rationed out bottles. In either case, some water preparedness could have eased the crisis. Here’s what the average family can do to prepare for a water crisis:

  • Fill containers and store them.  Be sure to opt for food-safe containers that did not hold milk or juice, as this can cause a bacteria growth in your stored water.
  • Store some 5 gallon water bottles.  Be sure to either have a top-loading dispenser or a manual pump for ease of using the water in the event that the crisis goes hand-in-hand with a power outage.
  • Get a gravity water filter.  We also carry small personal filters in our everyday carry kits.

Weather Emergencies

After the abundance of snow that has fallen this year, most of the United States can relate to the possibility of a storm affecting day-to-day life. People have been watching store shelves get cleared, digging their way out from under several feet of the white stuff, and getting stranded at home for days at a time.  Even worse are the hurricanes and superstorms that cripple entire regions of the country, taking out power lines, damaging roadways, and shutting down businesses.

To be prepared for a weather emergency, you should have the following:

Water and water purification supplies

See the section above.

Food and a way to cook it

There are two schools of thought regarding food during a power outage.  One: you need a cooking method that does not require the grid to be functioning.  Two: you can store food that doesn’t require cooking. If you opt for a secondary cooking method, be sure that you have enough fuel to last for a while.  Store foods that do not require long cooking times – for example, dried beans would use a great deal of fuel, but canned beans could be warmed up, or even eaten cold.  A rocket stove that can use many different types of fuel is an excellent and flexible choice.

Heating or cooling without electricity

If your power outage takes place in the winter and you live in a colder climate, heat is another necessity.  During the first 24 hours after a power outage, you can stay fairly warm if you block off one room of the house for everyone to group together in.  Keep the door closed and keep a towel or blanket folded along the bottom of the door to conserve warmth.  You can safely burn a couple of candles also, and in the enclosed space, your body heat will keep it relatively warm.  As well, dress in layers and keep everything covered – wear a hat, gloves (fingerless ones allow you to still function), and a scarf.

However, after about 48 hours, that’s not going to be enough in very cold weather. You will require back-up heat at this point in certain climates.  If you are lucky enough to have a source of heat like a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be just fine as long as you have a supply of wood.

Consider a portable indoor-safe propane heater (and propane) or an oil heater.  You have to be very careful what type of backup heat you plan on using, as many of them can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if used in a poorly ventilated area. Make sure to have CO monitors that will work without electrical power.

Emergency Lighting

Lighting is absolutely vital, especially if there are children in the house.  Nothing is more frightening than being completely in the dark during a stressful situation. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to plan for, as well as one of the least expensive.

Some lighting solutions are:

  • Garden stake solar lights
  • Long-burning candles
  • Kerosene lamp and fuel
  • Flashlights (don’t forget batteries)
  • Hand crank/solar lantern
  • Don’t forget matches or lighters

Tools and supplies

Some basic items will make your life much easier during an emergency. Here are some things that are essential in the event of a power outage:

  • Lighter/waterproof matches
  • Batteries in various sizes
  • Manual can opener
  • Basic tools: Pliers, screwdriver, wrench, hammer
  • Duct tape
  • Super glue
  • Sewing kit
  • Bungee cords

This is the bare minimum of the tools you’ll need. Feel free to expand on the basic supplies.

Financial Emergencies

This is very different from the other types of emergencies.  It’s undeniable that our country has seen an economic downturn that shows little sign of improvement on the horizon. Many people have suffered their own personal economic downturns due to job loss, unemployment or a higher cost of living. As well, smaller emergencies can crop up. Maybe your refrigerator gives its last hurrah. Maybe your car’s transmission gives up the ghost. There are all sorts of issues that can cause money to be in short supply.

We had our own personal economic crisis 5 years ago when I lost my job. I was unable to find a new job right away, and had to wait more than two months for my first unemployment check to arrive.  Luckily, I had a full pantry and linen closet, as well as a small emergency fund stashed away. The full pantry meant that I didn’t need to take money from my emergency fund for things like groceries, shampoo, and school supplies. The emergency fund meant that I could still keep the utilities on and pay the mortgage even though money wasn’t coming in.

To face a possible personal economic crisis, buy extra food and supplies that you normally use when you see them on sale, and put them back for a rainy day. Consider making some adjustments to live more frugally so that you can put a rainy day fund away.  Hopefully disaster never strikes, and you simply have a savings account and some extra supplies.

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An Open Letter to Single Parent Preppers

Dear Single Parent Preppers:

If there’s one thing I know about, it’s taking care of things by myself. If you’ve been a single parent for a while, you know exactly what I mean. You’re the breadwinner, the disciplinarian, the homekeeper, the chef, and the decision-maker. If you’re new to being a single parent, hang on to your halo, because there are definitely going to be some adjustments to life as you know it.

And if generally holding down the fort isn’t enough work, add to this, your preparedness efforts. When folks think about family preparedness, they usually consider the traditional family unit, with two parents, some children, and maybe a grandparent.  Often, it seems like single parent preppers are completely overlooked in these scenarios.

Even worse, when you do see an article about prepping as a single parent, it’s nearly always written by a married person and is a rehash of a prepping 101 article, advising the storage of emergency food and  some extra water.  You know, because if you are divorced, widowed, or otherwise single it wouldn’t occur to you to read a general prepping article or book. You’d only be seeking an article with the word “single mom” in it.

Ever since my first daughter was born, almost 21 years ago, I’ve felt that it was my responsibility as a parent to plan ahead for emergencies so that I could provide her with security no matter what life threw at our family. In fact, it was my husband’s job loss when she was a month old that sent me down the path of preparedness in the first place. (You can read the whole story about how I got started prepping here.) When I became a single mom of two daughters 13 years ago, it didn’t lessen my commitment to being prepared. If anything, I found that it was even more important.

Unfortunately, I have read some pretty discouraging things out there in Internetland that make it seem like single parent preppers are fighting against terrible odds, which is what compelled me to write this letter. Little aggravates me more than reading articles or forum posts that belittle entire groups of people or that serve to make people feel like their efforts are for naught. While not all of the posts are this judgmental, I’ve even had readers go off on uninformed tirades about what a horrible person I am for not being married, insinuating that a single mom is less than moral and speculating about the reasons even though they are completely ignorant of the situation.

And it isn’t just divorce or widowhood that can put you in the position of being a single parent prepperThere are a growing number of people who straddle the line for a variety of reasons. Some are the spouses of our military members who have been deployed overseas. Others are forced to live separately when one spouse finds employment too far away to return home each night. There are families in which one parent takes the majority of the responsibilities due to something that affects their spouses: chronic illness, addiction, or mental health concerns, to name a few.  These semi-single parents face many of the same issues as single parents do, and these are topped off with additional worries about the well-being of their spouses.

Please remember this: whether you are a single mom, a single dad, or any other single individual in charge of children, your efforts are incredibly important.

Ignore those people who tell you otherwise, because folks who are so narrow-minded may actually discover that they are the ones with the limitations that get in the way of survival. We are accustomed to gritting our teeth and adjusting to the situation because we have no option.

While single parenthood was certainly never my plan when I dreamed about being a mom, it’s not as horrible as some folks make it out to be. Sure, there are difficulties, but every parent on the planet has difficulties. Perhaps your family is having money problems. There could be a chronic illness. You may hate your job because your boss pats you on the butt when no one is looking. Maybe your kid has behavioral issues. Your day might not have enough hours to get everything done. None of these problems are unique to single parenthood.

The lives of single parent preppers aren’t all bad.

There are a few things about it that are actually kind of nice.

First of all, you never have to persuade a partner to get on board with preparedness. A frequent issue with couples is that one person is more involved or dedicated than the other. In some cases, the prepper family member actually has to hide purchases and preparedness expenditure from the non-prepper family member. The extent of the family’s preparedness endeavors is entirely up to you.

In the event of an emergency, you don’t have to waste time discussing your decisions. While it’s great to have another person to bounce ideas off, sometimes you are flying purely by instinct. The ability to immediately respond to an emergency situation can often mean the difference between life and death.

The children of single parents can’t play one parent off the other to the same extent. Some kids like to ask one parent for permission, and if that parent says no, they try again with the other parent. As the only game in town, we don’t have any of that nonsense. It’s merely annoying in good times but could be downright dangerous if the situation changed in the US.

There’s no need to come to an agreement on how much to involve the kids.  Some parents feel the kids shouldn’t have to worry about doomsday scenarios and thus, keep their preparedness activities completely on the down-low. Other parents believe it’s essential that the children develop a preparedness mindset from an early age.  When parents disagree about what is best for the children, it can cause a lot of tension in the household.

Kids from single parent households are sometimes more independent.  Of a necessity, kids in single parent households have to help out more.  They aid in caring for younger siblings, they get dinner started, and they have a few more responsibilities. (I’m generalizing, of course – each family has its own dynamic.)  This additional responsibility often results in kids that are highly competent and independent, and these qualities can really help out in a survival situation.

Of course, the life of single parent preppers is not all sunshine and roses.

Sometimes I get really tired of running the show completely on my own. Sometimes I sincerely wish there was another person on the planet who cared about the welfare of my children as passionately as I do.

If you can’t do something, you either have to learn or hire someone. In a two-parent household, there are often clearly defined roles, and if one parent isn’t efficient at a particular task, the other parent might be better at it. I can do minor repairs and MacGuyver with the best of them, but I’m not good at building things or doing more mechanical repairs. I’ve picked up a lot of skills out of sheer desperation (anyone need a drain taken apart?) but, if I need something done that requires a lot of strength or know-how, I have to hire someone to do it for me.

No one else will take care of your kids like you will.  This isn’t the case in all single-parent situations. Some folks have a good co-parenting arrangement, which is very beneficial for the children. But in other situations, the other parent is absent, irresponsible, or deceased. And that means that it’s all you. Every single decision that affects their welfare, every dime of money that comes into the house, and every mama-or-papa bear moment in which you must defend your children rests on your sturdy shoulders.

No one has your back. In a situation where home defense is necessary, you may find yourself all alone to protect your children if you are without a partner. So, you must train, learn self-defense skills, practice at the range, and train some more so that if a day ever comes when you have to, you will be able to defend your babies. The idea of a middle aged mama going Rambo might sound silly, but that’s only to people who don’t think the way we, as preppers, think.

If something happens to you, what will happen to your children?  This is a tremendous concern for me. I’m the only living parent of my children.  As such, I don’t participate in risky hobbies (no skydiving for me, thank-you-very-much) or speed in the car or have unhealthy habits like smoking.  It’s imperative that I be healthy and strong and able to finish raising my children, because there is not one single person on the planet who will unconditionally adore and protect them with the same motivation that I would. Thinking about the possibility of leaving my children orphaned keeps me up at night, because I am the only game in town.

My advice to single parent preppers

Most of the advice I would give to a single parent who is interested in being prepared is exactly the same as the advice I would give to anyone else. Stock up, be frugal, learn skills, and be alert. You know, the normal prepper stuff.

But there are a few things that a single parent family should pay special attention to, perhaps a little bit more than families with two adults.

1.) Don’t let your tasks be defined by gender roles.

There’s no room in a single parent’s life for stuff like “I’m a tough man, I don’t bake bread” or “I’m a helpless woman, I can’t change my own tire.”  You can, and you will, especially if you intend to survive in a long-term emergency.  There is absolutely nothing written in your DNA that precludes your ability to do certain tasks that are normally undertaken by the opposite sex.

The major exclusion to that would be physical limitations. While I’m pretty strong, there are some things that I simply can’t do because I’m not strong enough and in the last few years, I’ve had some back problems that would be exacerbated by doing stuff like chopping wood.  For those things, I use physics whenever possible, moving things with levers, for example. When all else fails, I hire someone to do those things for me. And speaking of needing help sometimes…

2.) Make reliable friends in your community.

I have quite a few like-minded friends that I can call on when I need a hand.  I don’t invite just anyone to my home, so it helps that some of the folks I know and trust are handy.  It’s good to have someone on speed dial that can aid when there is an emergency. There may come a time when you need someone you can trust to look after your kids, help you with a difficult repair, or push your vehicle out of the mud.  If you have family around, this may solve your problem. Otherwise, look for folks who share your views on the world. A friendly neighbor is always a good thing. Be ready to help out others when they need a hand, and build relationships with folks you can rely on if the need arises.

One caveat: unless you know people very, very, very well, never let them in on the details of your preps. OPSEC, baby.

3.) Be vigilant about security.

Out of all of the suggestions I’m giving, this one might apply more to single moms than single dads. (Of course, everyone should pay attention to home security.)

Some unsavory characters see a single woman and think: TARGET ACQUIRED.  They feel that a woman alone with kids will be more vulnerable, simpler to overpower, and easy pickings. Even worse, some see a mom alone with kids and want to victimize the children.

If you only follow one piece of advice in this article, make it this one: DO NOT BE THAT EASY TARGET.

Make your property as secure as possible with better locks, warning signs, barriers to easy access, and visible deterrents. My property, which is rural, is posted with no trespassing signs. I have cameras and warnings about those cameras. My welcoming committee is comprised of a 160 pound guard dog. Then there’s a 70 pound dog in the house. Then, if someone gets passed the gate and the dogs, there’s Mama, armed to the teeth.

You don’t want to be a delicate flower. You want to be Sarah Connor in the Terminator 2: Judgement Day. She trained to become a bada** because everyone was out to get her son. Become that mom.  Your children are depending on you, so you must train as though their lives depend upon your abilities.  Because some day, their lives might.

4.) Teach your children to be self-reliant.

Your kids may need to be a little more mature than kids in two-parent families. Although I think it’s a good idea for any kid to be able to feed themselves, keep themselves warm, keep themselves safe, and defend themselves, it becomes even more important when there’s only one adult in the house.

A difficult lesson for me was when my youngest girl and I lived up North in a cabin only heated by a woodstove. Initially, I wouldn’t let my daughter go near the stove because I didn’t want her to get burned. But then someone pointed out, “What if something happened to you and because the power was out, she couldn’t get a call out for help?  You live in a climate where she would freeze to death in just a couple of days without a fire.”  So, my pre-teen learned to build a roaring fire in the woodstove and maintain that fire, all on her own. Yes, she got a little burn when she bumped her arm against the door of the woodstove, and I felt like an awful parent for putting her in that position as she cried in pain. But…I would have been a more terrible parent if I hadn’t prepared her for something that could cause her death in an emergency.

Make sure that as soon as they’re old enough your children become competent in the following things:

  • Doing laundry
  • Doing dishes
  • Preparing simple meals
  • Taking care of pets and/or livestock
  • Keeping things tidy
  • Cleaning
  • Running the various systems in the home: the heater (whether it’s wood or controlled by a thermostat), irrigation for the garden, off-grid lighting and power, kitchen appliances, etc.)
  • Caring for younger siblings
  • Driving (as soon as they are old enough)
  • Firearms if you have them (When they’re young, keep your firearms locked away and make sure they understand the rules about not touching them if they happen to be out. When they’re old enough, begin instructing them in using firearms safely.)

You can gently encourage self-reliance by the entertainment that your kids are exposed to. We like watching movies or programs together that have independent kids or (since I have girls) strong female characters that can kick bootie.  Since I have a family of bookworms, the books that I bought my girls were often those that inspired an independent spirit.

5.) Make sure that your children know exactly what to do in the event of an emergency.

For example, we have bug out lists printed up. My daughter has a list and I have one so we can pack twice as fast. A couple of years ago, when the King Fire was nearly at our door, we were ready to go in just a few short minutes. By having a responsibility, the kids can focus on those tasks, which can help keep them calmer and more productive.

And, worst case scenario, if something happens to you, they need to know who to call, or if it occurs during a situation in which no help is available, they need to know how to take care of themselves and any younger siblings until such a time that an adult can step in. If they have the skills listed above, they’ll be far less likely to panic in such a situation.

6.) Make some things easy.

Sometimes, you need to take shortcuts.  I’m all about low-tech, cooking from scratch, raising my own, back-to-the-land living. However, I can’t do everything all the time. No one can, and when there is only one adult, it becomes even more challenging. Remember, you are only one person.

Have some things that are easy. There will be days when you don’t feel like grinding wheat with the manual grinder, baking a loaf of bread, and doing everything from scratch. There will be days when your kids have to fill in for you. For those days, have some things that are a little less challenging.

  • Keep some easy-to-prepare meals in your stockpile.
  • Have some wood set aside that is already split if you heat that way. Prep food ahead of time, at the beginning of the week so that leftovers are available.
  • Prep food ahead of time, at the beginning of the week so that leftovers are available.
  • Set up your watering system for the garden so that it’s automatic – that way no one can forget.
  • Likewise, automate as much as possible the feeding and watering of your animals.
  • Keep laundry and housekeeping under control, so that if you have to take a few days off because you are sick or injured, the household can still continue to function.

There’s no shame in taking shortcuts from time to time. If you constantly work yourself into exhaustion, it’s far more likely that you’ll get sick. Speaking of which…

7.) Take care of yourself.

When you are the only adult, it can be easy to get caught up in the grind of a constant struggle. There were several years that I worked so hard to make ends meet that my health suffered, I lost my sense of humor, and I rarely got to spend “fun” time with my daughters. It was grim indeed, but it taught me some valuable lessons.

You absolutely must take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Your health is even more important than ever before because you have a child or children who are depending on you. If you burn yourself out, eat poorly, develop a stress-related chronic illness, or injure yourself, then you won’t be able to take care of them.

I call it the “flight attendant theory of child rearing.”  When you’re on a plane, they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others. This is for the simple reason that if you pass out from oxygen deprivation, there will be no one else to help.  The same holds true with parenting in general. If you constantly care for others without a thought for your own well-being, you can become so drained that you are no longer able to help anyone.

  • Don’t overcommit yourself. The most freeing thing I ever did was learn to say no. I limit the number of commitments we have because there are so many people that want a piece of our time. We all get pressured to do things like volunteer at the school, drive kids back and forth to extracurriculars and social events on a daily basis, and take on extra projects at work. You absolutely have to learn how to say no to some of these obligations if you expect to have a few minutes for relaxation or time for your own projects.
  • Eat properly.  One of the biggest pitfalls of a busy life is taking too many shortcuts with regard to nutrition. Keep healthy food on hand at home instead of going through the drive-thru for dinner. When I worked outside the home, I found that a weekend food prepping session was essential for keeping us on track throughout the week.
  • Take time for exercise.  Many people have a sedentary job that keeps them sitting at a computer all day long. Take time throughout the day to move around. Inertia can take its toll. (Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest.)  Enjoy a walk during your lunch break and coffee breaks.  After work, do something active with your kids. If you are taking the kiddos to an activity, instead of sitting in the car playing on your phone while they are doing gymnastics, use that time to take a brisk walk.  This will keep you healthy, flexible, fit, and actually increase your energy levels.
  • Stop to smell the roses, especially those made by sticky little fingers from cotton balls stuck to construction paper and sprayed with stinky perfume. One day, they’ll be grown up and out of the house. You truly don’t want to look back on their childhoods with regret that all you did was grimly work to keep a roof over their heads.

Are you a single parent prepper?

You absolutely can do this. Lots of us do. Don’t let the naysayers discourage you. Don’t feel that it’s too difficult. Every single step you take toward greater preparedness is a step toward making life safer and more secure for your children.

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Forget Doom and Gloom: Preparedness is the Ultimate Act of Optimism

Does this sound familiar?

You’re talking to a friend or family member who isn’t on board with preparedness.  (And it’s even worse when they think they know what’s going on in the world but garner their so-called “information” from network news sources.)  You try for the millionth time to get them to consider stocking up on a few things and they say this:

Life’s too short for all of this doom and gloom.  Live a little! You’re such a pessimist!

My response to this is that preparedness is the ultimate form of optimism.

One who practices skills, makes dramatic lifestyle changes, and studies current events critically may come across to the uninitiated as a person who has buried himself or herself in negativity, but in fact, one who prepares is saying to life, “Whatever comes, we are not only going to live through it, my family is going to thrive, and I will not bend my knee to tyranny for an MRE and a bottle of water.”

I think that methods of preparedness can be compared to love songs on the radio.  Bear with me through this analogy.

If the songs that make you think of your significant other are sad, with reference to breaking up and getting back together, unsatisfied yearnings, arguments, frustration, anger, and broken hearts, you just might be doing the whole “love” thing wrong.  Shouldn’t the song that makes you think of the one you love be happy, upbeat, full of joy? Shouldn’t thoughts of that special someone make you more prone to goofy smiles and a warm glow than to melancholy longing or the urge to gleefully burn all of their belongings in a great pile in the front yard?

It’s exactly the same with preparedness.  Thoughts of your plans, your lifestyle, and your loaded pantry room should give you a sense of peace and security.  If your state of preparedness makes you feel unhappy, stressed, angry, or resentful, you’re doing something wrong.

Here are some examples of how prepping is pure, unadulterated optimism:

  • Your area is under a severe storm warning.  While everyone else you know is rushing to the store and knocking over old ladies to clear the shelves, you’re tying down some outdoor furniture, filling the bathtubs with water, bringing in  some extra firewood, cooking up some stuff that would be likely to go bad during an extended power outage, and getting the candles and lanterns ready. Perhaps you are discussing with your kids why you’re doing what your doing and using it as a teachable moment.  There is no panic, only the peace of mind you feel when you don’t have to try to get things that everyone else is trying to procure at the exact same frenzied moment.
  • During this hypothetical storm, the power goes out for two weeks, water is under a boil order, and trees are down everywhere.  You remain in the safety of your home with your family, not risking downed power lines and falling branches from storm-damaged trees.  You heat up hearty meals using off-grid cooking methods with which you are already familiar.  You spend the two-week break playing boardgames, reading books, doing art projects. You have plenty of food, plenty of water, and plenty of light. To your kids, this is an adventure and to you, it’s a little break from your regular work and from technology.
  • Heaven forbid that you should lose your job, but if you did, you have the security of a supply of food to see you through. You know how to grow your own food to supplement this supply because you’ve been doing it for years. You know a million different ways to do things manually and save yourself money.  While a loss of income is a crisis, for someone who has readied themselves for the possibility, it could also be an opportunity to seek a new job, to homeschool the kids, to start a business of their own.  If they don’t feel that horrible sense of desperation, realizing that the mortgage payment is coming out in 3 weeks, and they don’t have the money to pay it, the utilities are already close to being cut off, and there are 3 slices of bread in the house, with two of them being the crusty heels that nobody wants to eat, then the person is a little more free to search for the silver lining.
  • One fine summer day when you are enjoying a barbecue at a friends house, you listen to other folks complaining about the cost of produce at the grocery store due to the droughts and poor growing conditions across the country.  You realize that you haven’t purchased a single vegetable since your spring lettuce and peas prolifically came in, and you had absolutely no idea that everyone else was paying double or triple what they paid last year for a bag of baby spinach or a pound of tomatoes.
  • If someone you know falls on hard times, you are always able to lend a hand with a bag full of groceries that came directly from your pantry.  You don’t even have to think twice about helping out, because you are prepared for the long haul.

What non-preparedness people just can’t seem to understand is that what we seek is peace of mind, freedom, and security for our families, not just a weekend at Disneyworld.  We don’t wish to delude ourselves with the soothing lies and distractions of the mainstream media so that we can blithely go about the business of trying to guess which B-list performer is going to take the crown (do they have a crown?) on Dancing with the Stars. We like reality and we’d rather not have surprises.  We can still have fun that doesn’t compromise our ideals, sabotage our progress, or deter us from our paths.

We don’t want to be lulled into a false sense of prosperity, hypnotized by our iPhones and our “smart” wristwatches, or pacified with governmental lies about the “recovery.” We don’t want to deal with the aftereffects of shooting poisons into our babies, the ill health that comes from eating substances that aren’t even food but are guaranteed by the government to be “safe”, or stumble through life in a fluoride-induced brain fog.

We just want to go out to our garden and get some unsprayed heirloom tomatoes, for crying out loud, and thrive on real food, clean water, and an avoidance of Big Pharma chemicals.  When I look at my own rosy-cheeked child and compare her glowing health with that of her friends, I am thankful every single day that we take the extra steps to keep her nourished, toxin-free,  and whole, in defiance of a government and media that would have her chemically dumbed down and poisoned, literally, for profit.

Here’s a final analogy.

Imagine that you are out for a walk, and you get lost in the woods. You end up wandering around for a couple of days, and you’re exhausted and hungry.  You come upon two bushes, different varieties of plants, both with brightly colored berries.

  • Would you rather know for certain that one of those bushes bears edible fruit that won’t harm you, and consume those berries with confidence because you have taken the effort to be educated on the flora of the area?
  • Or would you prefer to have absolutely no idea which one is safe because the thought that you might have to rely on berries in the woods to survive is pessimistic, and you refused to spoil a great hiking trip with negative thinking beforehand?

Preparedness: It means that whatever may come, you intend to not only grimly survive, but to thrive. It means that you foresee a day when the imminent threat, whatever that may be, diminishes, and you will rebuild. It means that you have taken responsibility for yourself and your family, and that you will not be forced to rely on others. It means that your mind is focused on life itself, not some imaginary life of some reality star that actually has no grasp on reality whatsoever. You have chosen not to be misguided by the lies that the media uses to pacify you.

Preparing yourself is the most optimistic and hopeful thing you can do in a world that would prefer to choose immediate gratification over a firm grasp on reality. Readying yourself to deal with whatever might happen is a joyful act, an expression of gratitude to the Creator and the Universe, peace made tangible, and the personification of faith itself.

Also, a quick  note to beginners:

Please, don’t let the thought of all of the preps that you do not yet have bring you down. It’s a process, and the most important prep is already in place: your mindset.  Once you know the possibilities, accept them, and begin to prepare, you are already far ahead of most of the neighborhood. You’ve taken the most important step, the first one, and the rest will come as long as you persevere. Don’t be discouraged by how much you have left to do, instead, be encouraged by how far ahead you are compared to your starting point. Never underestimate the magnitude of the importance of your state of mind.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;

an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

~ Winston Churchill

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The One Simple Secret to Surviving Any Crisis

When disaster strikes, will you be ready? Will you be organized, calm, and ready to adapt to whatever the situation brings? Sometimes we have some warning, and sometimes things happen out of the blue. There is one simple secret that will allow you to sail through nearly any crisis. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, or take up an entire roomful of storage space.

It’s your ability to accept the scenario.

The more time you spend denying that this could ever happen to you, happen in your home town, or occur at all, the less time you have to take definitive action. In fact, your willingness to accept that disaster could strike before it ever does puts you even further ahead, because you’ll be ready for immediate action without wasting valuable time wrapping your brain around it.

We recently hovered on the edge of evacuation for 12 days due to the King Fire, a forest fire that nearly reached 100,000 acres.  We got up on a sunny Saturday morning,  never realizing that would be the day an angry man would punctuate a domestic dispute by setting fire to a tree in the other person’s yard. Certainly, no one expected that one act of anger to set off a fire that would exceed the size of the city of Atlanta.

However, he did set that fire, and it came as close as 2 miles to our home over the almost-two-weeks that we watched with bated breath.

During the fire, I joined a number of local groups online so that I could get the most up-to-the-minute information, and during this time, I took lots of notes of my observations. The thing that was very clear is that those who were at least somewhat prepared handled the situation far better than those who simply couldn’t accept that this threat was actually happening to them.

As someone who has studied preparedness for many years, I witnessed firsthand the classic exemplar of human behavior during a disaster.  Tess Pennington, the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, wrote an article last year called The Anatomy of a Breakdown. In the article, she pointed out that in the event of disaster, society devolves in a predictable pattern with four distinct phases.  Her observations were accurate during our experience.  As we watched the events unfold, some people changed dramatically.

The difference between the people who crumbled, becoming easily offended, snarling, and hysterical, and the people who were generous, calm, and effective?  Their levels of preparedness, both mental and physical.

Think about any stressful situation that has ever happened to you.  Once you accepted the fact that it had happened you were able to set a course of action. Once you had definitive steps to take, you probably felt much calmer. You took control of the things you could, and you executed your plan.  Only by taking that first step – accepting that this mishap had indeed occurred – could you take the next two.

1.) Accept

2.) Plan

3.) Act

No matter what situation you find yourself in, these steps will nearly always see you through.

Here’s what we saw.

During our own experience, here are the things I witnessed. They could apply to any type of disaster, natural or otherwise:

Bug out bags are absolutely the first prep you should make. If you’re just getting started, do this one thing. You can do it without spending a penny, by just gathering up things that you already own. You may not have a top-of-the-line, ready-for-the-apocalypse bag , but you’ll still be far ahead of most people.  When we first learned of the fire and realized that evacuating might become necessary, I had only two things to do. I had to get documents from the safe (the documents, by the way, were already housed in a plastic folder, so I only had to grab that one thing) and pull the pet carriers out of the shed. In less than 5 minutes, we were ready to roll. Had it been necessary, we could have left with only the photocopies of the documents, because those always remain in our bug-out bags. Having your bug-out bag ready means that you have accepted in advance that disaster could strike.

Any time one disaster strikes, several more are sure to follow. This is highly probable.  Some people in the fire zone not only stayed on the edge of evacuation for nearly two weeks, but they also lost power due to the fire.  This greatly reduced their ability to get news and information, which is vital in a disaster situation. It leads to even more worry and stress, and while you’re dealing with the potential of your home burning down, you’re also living through a power outage lasting several days. Getting prepared for a two-week power outage is absolutely vital and can see you through most regional disasters. Also, when it finally began to rain, although it helped to quench the flames, firefighters were suddenly threatened by flash floods. These were made worse because the areas no longer had the same natural obstructions to deter the flow of water.

Unprepared people panic.  Some people panicked initially. When we got the first evacuation alert (a notice that evacuation was highly likely within the next 24 hours), a woman who lived down the street was wailing and sobbing as her husband tried to pack up their vehicle.  She was rendered absolutely useless by fear. Meanwhile, my 13 year old was fulfilling her list while I fulfilled mine and we quickly made an orderly stack of important belongings, then turned on a movie to beat the stress. Had our area actually been forced to evacuate, those who panicked would have either been the last to leave, or they would have forgotten important things as they left in a disorganized rush. It’s important to decide ahead of time who packs what, and for each person to have a list. Sit down well before disaster strikes and make an evacuation plan with your family.

Get organized.  All the lists in the world won’t help you pack quickly if you don’t know where things are. One change we’re making is that all of the items we deemed precious enough to pack and take with us will now be stored in one area so that we won’t have to look for them when seconds count.  Another friend ran into the issue of dirty clothes: he actually had to evacuate with hampers of unwashed laundry. Having your home tidy and organized (and your laundry washed and put way) will help your packing go smoothly in the event of a sudden evacuation.

You can’t be prepared for everything.  Disaster situations are always fluid and they don’t go by a script. It’s vital to be adaptable to the changing situation.

Keep your vehicle full of fuel.  If you have to evacuate, lots of other people will be hitting the road too. When you’re stuck in traffic, you don’t want to be worried about your fuel gauge dropping to the empty mark, leaving you stranded in a dangerous situation.

The criminals come out, like cockroaches. Within 24 hours of the first evacuations, we learned that the local scumbags had looted some of the homes that had been left unattended. Within 48 hours, we learned that the scourge had reached the outlying areas, with these people breaking into cars that had been loaded up with the things that families had determined to be most important to them.  Of course, if you’ve evacuated, there’s nothing you can do about what’s happening to your home. But before evacuation, or in the event of civil unrest, it’s vital to be prepared to defend your family and belongings. In these situations, the first responders are busy, and that’s what criminals rely on. You should consider yourself to be completely on your own, and be ready for trouble. Keep in mind that during the civil unrest in Ferguson recently, the only businesses that didn’t get looted were the ones at which the owners stood armed and ready to defend their property.

The longer the stress lasts, the worse some people behave. As continued stress is applied, the true nature of a person becomes evident. People who formerly seemed like perfectly nice individuals were on the local message forums saying terrible things to one another. They were verbally attacking others for imagined slights and taking offense at things that would normally never ruffle feathers. Some folks were launching tirades against the very people who were performing the greatest service: the admins of the web pages who worked round the clock to keep us informed. If it was this bad in a potential emergency, can you imagine how bad things will get in a truly devastating long-term scenario?

But then…some people are wonderful. Alternatively, sometimes you see the very best of human nature. The generosity of many of my neighbors cannot be overstated. They housed livestock, pets, and families full of strangers during the evacuation. People showed up at the shelter with food and comfort items for those who had been evacuated. Firemen who came from near and far to fight the blaze were constantly being treated to meals at local restaurants, as other diners surreptitiously paid their tabs. Watching the kindness and gratitude helped to restore some of my faith in human nature, after seeing the squabbling and crime. It was interesting to me that the people who gave the most generously were the ones who were the most prepared. These folks were calm and could focus on other things besides “Oh my gosh, I don’t know what to do!” We definitely learned who the people were that we wanted to surround ourselves with when the S really HTF.

Take steps now to be one of those calm people later.

Today, I want you to think about disasters. It’s certainly not a pleasant thought, but considering these things now – when there’s no fire bearing down on you, no hurricane heading your way, no chemical spill poisoning your water, no pandemic in the next town over – allows you to think more clearly and make a definitive plan of action.


Check your bug out bags.

Organize your most precious belongings.

Discuss the plan with your family so that everyone knows what to expect.

Make these decisions now so that when – and it’s always “when” not “if” – disaster knocks at your door, you’re prepared to respond immediately. Learn about what to expect from others in order to keep your family safe and on-plan. Human nature isn’t as much of a variable when you can predict their behavior.

What to pack:

Here are the things we packed for our potential evacuation:

  • Bug out bags
  • Cell phone
  • Address book with important contacts
  • Money, credit cards
  • Pet carriers – I prefer the hard-sided ones so that our pets are sheltered better in a crowded vehicle
  • Pet food
  • 2 weeks of clothing
  • Extra shoes
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Documents (identification, insurance, passports, etc.)
  • A utility bill or other proof of residence
  • Small Portable safe for valuables
  • Family photos
  • Items of sentimental value
  • Reading material
  • Laptops
  • Water
  • A small fire extinguisher
  • Extra fuel in a safe container
  • Phone and laptop chargers
  • car charger
  • On the recommendation of a friend, I threw our swimming goggles in, to offer eye protection in the event we had to drive through thick smoke

Your list might also include:

  • Security items for children
  • Items to entertain children
  • Prescription medication
  • Allergy medication
  • Religious items for comfort
  • Food (If you go to an evacuation shelter, you may end up having to purchase meals out or make due with very small rations)
  • Bedding

Make a written checklist that you can easily access. You might include the location of items that are packed away. Decide on these things now, when you have the time to calmly think about what items are the most important.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of those sentimental items.  We feared that if we had to leave our home, we might never be coming back. Identify the things that are dear to your heart and put them in a place where you can grab those treasures quickly. Insurance can’t replace photos of those who have passed on, special gifts, and items that bring you memories of loved ones.

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The First 10 Things Every New Prepper Should Do (Some of Them Are Free!)

Over the past couple of years, here in America….

Contaminated water caused a complete loss of municipal services in both Ohio and West Virginia, resulting in almost a million people vying for the stock in local stores.

A freak confluence of storms caused a “Superstorm” that took out power to much of the Eastern Seaboard, including New York City and the coastal parts of New Jersey. Nearly a year later, some families were still without electricity to their homes.

Two winters in a row, a “polar vortex” caused horrifyingly low temperatures and paired with winter storms to make the mid-western US resemble the Artic Circle.

A small town in Missouri was under siege twice in a few months due to a police shooting of a young black man, and the officer’s subsequent acquittal.

20% of Americans have suffered a job loss over the past 2 years and 45 million Americans are living in poverty.

In 2012, a deadly Derecho storm took down the power grid for millions of people during the worst heatwave of the summer. Electricity was out for up to a week in what some officials described as the worst power outage they had ever seen.

A lethal virus that everyone thought would be relegated to the distant regions of Africa was diagnosed here in the US, not just once, but multiple times.

Now, read that and try to tell me that disasters don’t happen.  Try to say that it’s impossible that they’d happen to you. If you say this, you’re deluding yourself because the reality is too unpleasant, and we both know it. If you’d like to continue deluding yourself, thank you for stopping by. Enjoy the articles about wholesome food, and pretend not to notice the articles that urge you to take responsibility for yourself and your family.

However, if you’re ready to accept this fact, read on. I’ll tell you how to get started in a way that isn’t overwhelming. No bunkers, no wearing of tinfoil, no filtering and drinking of pee, and no building of Arks will be mentioned. That stuff is all in Prepping 201. (Kidding!)

 How to Get Started Prepping

When you begin reading websites about prepping, sometimes it can be overwhelming. You see people talking about their one-year food supplies, their bug-out lodges, their ammo collection, and their homestead that is so far out in the wilderness that they have to climb a big pine tree on top of the mountain to get an internet connection and boast online about their seclusion.

Most preppers are just regular folks with a self-reliant mindset.

I’m here to tell you, getting started does not require a $20,000 investment or your children feverishly packing beans and rice into Ziplock bags late into the night.

There are 10 simple things you can do to get started. Lots of them are free and if you apply yourself, you can get started on all 10 steps in less than a week. All of the highlighted text is a link that will take you to related resources so you can learn more.

#1. Fill up a whole bunch of empty bottles with water.

If you haven’t taken out the recycling yet this week, don’t!  You can use those empty two liter soda pop bottles and gallon water bottles to stock up on a drinking water supply. Count on a gallon a day per human and pet. (Two 2-liter bottles are approximately a gallon). If you don’t have any containers you can fill, you can buy 5 gallon jugs of water at most grocery stores or Wal-mart.  Most of the time, you’ll pay well under $20 for a full jug of water. Five of those will keep a family of 4 in drinking water for just over a week, should it be required. Add to your supply each week, and soon you’ll have a month supply, quietly sitting there in your basement.

#2. Bookmark some websites.

The internet is a wonderful place, and best of all, this knowledge can be found for FREE! The more you know about crisis situations, the more ready you will be to face them. Some sites are friendlier to beginners than others, so if you stumble upon a forum where people seem less than enthusiastic about helping people who are just starting out, don’t let it get you down. Move on and find a site that makes you feel comfortable.

#3. Take a look at your budget.

What? Budgets don’t sound very prepperly! But how do you expect to pay for all of those beans, bullets, and band-aids if you don’t make some adjustments to your spending and shopping habits?

 #4. Inventory your food supply, then start building your stockpile.

You probably have more food on hand than you realize you do. Before you go out and spend lots of money at the grocery store, it’s important to go through your cupboards, pull things out, and get organized. You don’t know what you need until you know what you have.  Be sure to put things away in an organized fashion so you can find what you need, when you need it. Now that you know what you have, you can fill in the holes. You can’t expect to have a 1-year food supply all at once. This will help you get the idea of how to build your stockpile. Resist the urge to stock up on nutritionally useless foods like Ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese. If there is a situation going on in which you must rely solely on your stockpile, you will want to be nourished, not just filled up.

#5. Have a drill.

The absolute best way to know what you need during an emergency is to simulate a crisis.  Get your family on board and spend a weekend without power and running water. Keep a list going for the entire weekend so that you can note what needs arose. (Leave the breakers on for the refrigerator and freezer – you don’t want to potentially have your food spoil.) Can you make coffee and food? Can you keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer? Can you keep the kids entertained?

#6. Prep for a power outage.

With most disasters comes a power outage, just to up the challenge ante. Sometimes the power outages are the disaster all by themselves. Remember about 5 years ago when a freak ice storm knocked out the power in Arkansas and Missouri for over a month? You want to be ready for stuff like that. Be sure you have food that doesn’t require cooking, light sources (hint: think solar garden stakes), a way to stay warm or cool, and a way to salvage the food in your fridge and freezer.  Figure out a cooking method that doesn’t require electricity in the event that the outage lasts more than a few days. Be ready with games and non-power dependent activities to keep the kids (and by default, the parents) sane.

#7. Figure out how to use the bathroom if the toilet doesn’t flush.

In an all-out disaster that shuts down municipal water supplies, you may find yourself in a situation where the toilet won’t flush. At times like this, you’ll want to shut off the main to your house, because you could end up with other people’s waste backing up through the lines. A quick, inexpensive solution is to turn your toilet into a litter box for humans. Drain the water from the bowl, then line it with a very heavy contractor’s garbage bag. Place some kitty litter in the bottom of it. When someone uses the bathroom, they should put a new scoop of litter on top of their waste. It’s vital to make sure the bag doesn’t get too heavy to carry without ripping. Seal the full bags well, then store them outside until service resumes. If you must use other disposal methods, the safest way to get rid of it is to bury it far from water sources or gardens.

#8. Prep for an evacuation.

Now you need to pack a bug-out bag. If budget is a concern, use bags you already have along with supplies that you already have. The important thing is to have your important stuff organized and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Have a list of last minute items so that you know what you need. It’s better to think this through when you’re calm, not when the clock is ticking towards disaster. You’ll want things like personal documents, extra medication, comfort items for children, and survival supplies that could get you through 3 days away from home.

#9. Be prepared to defend your home and family.

It is an unfortunate but unavoidable truth that disasters bring out the worst in a lot of people. (Remember Ferguson? This wasn’t even a disaster, it was an unpopular verdict.)This truth is what turns a lot of people off from prepping. They can understand the need for having a few cans of food and some extra toilet paper, but they’re so immersed in cognitive dissonance that they can’t wrap their brains around the possibility of civil unrest. You do NOT want to be one of those families who bury their heads in the sand. You can have a 10-year supply of food, water, and medicine, but if you can’t defend it, you don’t own it. The article The Anatomy of a Breakdown explains the predictable patterns of social unrest. The best way to win a fight is to avoid getting into that fight in the first place. Secure your home and lay low, but be prepared if trouble comes to visit. Don’t rely on 911. During widespread civil unrest, the cops are going to be busy and it’s unlikely that help will arrive. Have a safe room for vulnerable family members. Be armed and know how to use your weapon of choice. If you don’t know how to use your weapon, learning should be one of your top priorities.

#10. Build your resource library.

This is where some money could come into play. Most of the time, people in the preparedness world like to have hard copies of important information. This way, if the power goes out and you can’t access the internet or recharge your Kindle, you still have access to vital advice. Some of these books are for just such an event, while others are guides to building your self-reliance skills.

What are you waiting for?

If you’re new to this, there’s no better time to start than right this minute.

Go through the list and do the free things first. Do all of the plotting and planning second, and then put your plans into action as your budget allows. Whatever you do, stop waiting around.  Disasters won’t wait until it’s a convenient time for you.

If you a seasoned prepper, please share your inexpensive start-up ideas for newbie preppers in the comments below. If you have friends and loved ones you’d like to help get started, send them this article. It’s loaded with budget-friendly links to start them on their journey. Help encourage people to join our community of self-reliance!

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8 Tips for Success with PI

So, you’re all signed up and ready to rock, roll and prep!

You’re investing time and money in this program, so it’s essential that you make the most of it. If you’re not happy, we’re not happy. We want you to say great things about this program and recommend it to your friends, because the more prepared people there are in your life, the more insurance you have against disaster. Plus, helping people prepare is just what we do.

To help you not get overwhelmed by everything that is part of PI, each Module will go “Live” every Saturday night at midnight. You’ll begin by having access to Module 1 on the first day of class.

Following, you’ll find some of our best tips for making the most of the Prepping Intensive:

  1. Make a binder…and use it!  When you get access to the new week’s module, you’ll notice that there are some things to print out, like assessments and checklists. PRINT THESE. Maybe make more than one copy. Fill them out and put them in your binder. This is your guideline for your personalized preparedness plan.
  2. Don’t guess.  If the assignment is to figure out how many gallons of water that you have stored, don’t say to yourself, “I’ve got about a case and a half of bottles and at least one 5 gallon jug” and then put down 10 gallons. Do the work of counting, calculating, and confirming.
  3. Read the articles.  We’ll provide links to reading material that is pertinent to the weekly topic. By going through the material, you’re essentially taking a crash course on that topic.  There could be some repetition between the articles. This is good, because anything that you see frequently is probably one of the most important points to remember. For each module, we’ve marked the most important articles, the ones you really can’t afford to miss, with an asterisk. On weeks when you’re super busy, this will help you prioritize your reading time.
  4. Attend the webinars when they’re live. Obviously, everyone has a life, so sometimes you won’t be able to make it to a webinar. But the more you can attend, the more you will learn, and when else will you have a chance to ask experts like Daisy Luther, Lisa Bedford, or Arthur T. Bradley questions?  If you can’t attend, they’ll always be recorded and available for listening to later. The recording links will be available in the Webinars section of that week’s Module.
  5. Ask questions. Speaking of questions, please don’t be afraid to ask!  The Forum will be a prime place for doing this, and chances are, if you have a question, someone else does too.  Not only that, but when lots of people chime in to help answer, then options that no one ever imagined can come to light. Sort of a hive brain, but in a good way.
  6. Get to know people.  One of the great things about this program is how we can all get to know each other. Prepping can be so isolating. What could be better than having conversations with others who don’t think we’re crazy for prepping? Jump right into the forum in our Student Center. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, share dilemmas, or tell others what you’ve done to prepare.
  7. At the same time, be careful. It’s very important not to give out too much personal information. As wonderful as it is to make friends online, use caution before divulging your specific location, your preps, or other information that should be kept a bit more private.
  8. Respond quickly if you win one of the giveaways.  Each week there is a giveaway with very cool, prepper-oriented prizes. And when I say cool, I mean things like a triple family pack of food from Preppers Market or a Lifestraw or a set of books. Anyway, if you win, we’ll contact you by email. If you haven’t responded in 48 hours, we’ll have to draw someone else.

If you communicate, you do the work, and you gather your supplies, you’ll come out of this class in ten weeks with a whole new perspective and a guideline for what to do next. And if you  run into a snag, we’re here to help!

Lisa and Daisy1

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