America’s political chaos keeps escalating and while the craziness hit new levels in 2020, the deepening polarization has been going on for decades. Even a major national crisis, like 9/11 for instance, created only momentary national unity and then, in the blink of an eye, partisans were back to seething, raging and blaming each other. This year, being a presidential election year, was bound to get very crazy as we got closer to November, but we’ve had COVID-19 hitting us, followed by massive nationwide protests and civil unrest. The recent death of Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg just added another level of crazy to our political chaos and polarization.
If you’re waiting for the government, the experts, or “the science” to guide your most important life choices, you’ll be sadly disappointed, I believe. So, here’s another “becoming a prepper” blog post.
I’m late at mentioning this, but September is National Preparedness Month. The Department of Homeland Security has a website to help you get started, but a lot of preppers on YouTube have put out videos with very good prepping advice too, so I’m going to share some of those. The media keeps hyping that America is going to become even more chaotic this Fall, so rather than fixate on chaos we have no control over, we’ll all probably be better off if we invest our time and energy into preparing our own families and homes to weather whatever storms blow our way.
The main lesson 2020 should teach all of us is that learning and practicing basic preparedness should be an essential routine in our lives. Before this pandemic I didn’t consider myself a “prepper,” although I’ve always had plenty of food, extra water, medical supplies, flashlights, extra batteries, and those sorts of things on hand. However, I lacked any actual family preparedness plan or understanding about how long the supplies I have would last in an emergency situation. Back in May, I decided to expand our food storage to a 3-6 month food supply and even this undertaking has been a learning process for me.
Although I always had extra food on-hand, I lacked any clear idea of how much food we really use in a month, because of all the little trips to my local Walmart Neighborhood Market store, which is very close to my house. I did major grocery shopping, but didn’t really think much about all the little trips to the store. Paying closer attention to the details matters, but be flexible and willing to adjust your prepping as you figure out what works for you. Everyone needs water and some food, but what foods people deem “must haves” varies greatly. I’m not buying any Spam, because I absolutely hate Spam and my husband’s stomach won’t handle Spam well either.
Many YouTube preparedness channels offer practical and useful information and yes, many offer impractical and useless information too, so if you weren’t a “prepper” you’ll quickly be bombarded by all sorts of unfamiliar prepper terminology and lingo. Once you figure out the prepper language, the next adjustment for me was getting used to being bombarded with a lot of apocalyptic fear mongering and advice (usually framed as “must haves”) or “prepper gear” to acquire, so sifting through all of that and considering your budget and where to spend money on prepping items can be confusing and way more complicated than I imagined possible.
Beware of being sucked down numerous “prepper” rabbit holes, because there are so many types of prepping, from basic food and water storage to preparing for natural disasters, preparing to live off the grid, to preparing for end-of-the world crises, like a civil war or nuclear disaster. Figure out what basic prepping activity you want to focus on and stick to that to start. Don’t start measuring your “preps” (supplies you acquire in your preparedness efforts) against what other people (especially diehard preppers online) have. I’m a very basic prepper – food, water, thinking about cooking if the power goes out, and making sure I have extra supplies for my husband’s care and my own medical problems. I am not wasting time preparing for a civil war or a nuclear disaster – I’m just not.
Here’s a video by Sensible Prepper to help you figure out what type of prepper you are:
The thing I like about YouTube is ordinary people put together videos and often they put together information in a clear and easy to understand way. I came across this video on building a three-month food supply by a channel called Actively Family. This guy goes through how his family put together their 3 month food supply and how they use and manage it:
Having some sort of emergency plan helps and although I’m big on comprehensive national strategic planning and have spent loads of time reading about big picture strategy for decades, I didn’t have any real family emergency plan that was well thought out. Actually, the same rules apply – ends, ways, means and while no emergency plan can cover every possible emergency situation, having basic supplies on-hand and organized and going through the process of thinking about ways to prepare and cope with various emergency scenarios, has removed a lot of the anxiety about all the “OMG the sky is falling” hysteria that the media churns out everyday. I mentioned this couple, The Provident Prepper, who have a YouTube channel and a website that covers a wide array of preparedness issues in another blog post, and they put out this video that explains how to put together a Family Emergency Plan:
When I encouraged my adult children to start stocking up on food, water, and making sure they keep their vehicles filled with gas weeks before the pandemic lockdown stuff started, none of them took my advice seriously. Two of my kids told me I was overreacting, one kid told me he has prepared and has guns and plenty of ammo (home defense is an important aspect to prepping too,) and another kid told me my idea of stocking up was ridiculous. By May, I decided to build up our food storage to a 3-6 month supply and that’s still a learning process for me. I’ve read a lot of prepper information and watched many prepper videos, but what’s helped me the most is paying closer attention to how much of various food items we actually do use.
One drawback to stocking up larger amounts of food that isn’t mentioned much is that large stockpiles require time – time to organize, time to rotate, time to inventory, time to restock. After working in retail for years, it’s ingrained in my brain to think in terms of avoiding “shrinkage,”
Having lots of overstock in a store is a recipe to create a lot of unnecessary shrink. Shrink in home food storage seems like it could easily lead to wasted money from not properly storing food (spoilage), buying food no one in your home eats, buying quantities of food that will spoil before you can use it and not organizing your food storage, so that foods disappear into the nether reaches of your freezer or cupboards, only to be rediscovered far into the future. Another thing to think about is large stores of food attract pests, both the creepy crawler bug kind and the scurrying, larger kind. Thinking about pest prevention and control has to become part of your food storage planning.
All four of my adult kids think having a 3-6 month food supply is extreme (and nuts,) so I find my views on preparedness somewhere between the committed preppers in the prepper community and my kids, who think a 3 month food supply is totally unnecessary in America. When I discussed my food prepper idea with two of my sisters, they had the exact opposite reaction as my kids and told me that they’ve been building up their food storage too. Just accept that people near and dear to you will likely view preparedness differently than you do. I’ve kept my kids in mind with my prepping, by buying some extra to share in an emergency.
As I’ve gone along with building up my food storage, I’ve learned a few things. The first thing I learned (by failing to do this, obviously) is that before you embark on building a “prepper” pantry, do an inventory of your pantry and organize the food you already have on hand. Don’t rush out and buy a lot of extra food without preparing a place to store it in your home. It makes no sense to rush through grocery stores, dollar stores and Costco or Sams club stores, just piling stuff into shopping carts. Take a deep breath, take stock of what you already have, then make some lists. Prioritize based on what you can afford and then buy extra supplies you’ve already planned where to store in your home. Deciding to build up your food storage isn’t a one time large haul shopping trip and you’re done effort; it’s a commitment to a new routine in how you manage your food pantry in your home. Prepping takes time and it takes making plans, as you learn what works for you and your family.