In my last post, I’m hoping it didn’t come across as trivializing emergency preparedness, because that wasn’t my intention at all. What I was expressing was my evolving attitude about my own emergency preparedness, especially stocking up on food, as news reports keep predicting increasing shortages and supply problems across America. I have continued to stock up my pantry more than I did pre-pandemic, although I always had a good bit of extra food on hand. Last year during the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020, I decided to work toward organizing and expanding my food pantry effort. Having at least a 3-6 month supply of food on hand was my goal. I’m not sure if I’m precisely there, but I’m sure I could last a long while on what I’ve stored, as long as we weren’t without a water supply for months and we had electricity to keep my fridge and freezers running, because I don’t have a generator or 6 months of water stored. Those are two big “ifs.”
I enjoy watching YouTube channels, but these online communities are composed of ordinary people setting up channels, to become “influencers.” Most have monetized their channel and all across YouTube loads of channels use clickbait titles. Sifting through all of this information has been an ongoing challenge to me, because I like to verify information, especially information that purports to be news. My last post was an update as to where I’m at with my own prepping and my personal opinions.
My largest mental hurdles remain doing due diligence to not being wasteful, while prepping on an ongoing basis, and staying committed to organizing and rotating food on a regular basis. Keeping my pantry organized doesn’t come naturally to me, so I’ve got to make a real effort to work on that consistently.
My family has affectionately called me a hoarder, my entire life. My mother used to tell me I am just like her mother, who raised her family during the Great Depression and was dirt poor. I have always taken it as a compliment to be told I was just like my grandmother, who was a survivor. Despite living in poverty, she emphasized, not only stocking up, but she loved fine china and set her table properly for meals always. During the Great Depression my grandmother collected a complete set of Spode’s blue willow china, piece by piece, that was part of some detergent promotion. She was also big on reusing and repurposing items. And of course she never passed up “great deals” at the five and dime store. She cooked wonderful meals on a wood cook stove her entire life. My grandmother also liked to look nice and particularly loved wearing stylish hats. I’ll plead guilty to “hoarding” craft and needlework supplies, because I know I’ve got enough to last me 5 lifetimes, even if I diligently sewed and crafted 8 hours a day, every day, for the rest of my life and I’ve got a really hard time parting with books.
In many YouTube communities “haul videos” are popular and the prepper community is no different in that respect. Watching what other preppers are stocking up on or saying are must-haves can “influence” your shopping habits was my point. I know it influenced mine when I first started prepping in a more committed way, especially when it was YouTube channels with a large number of subscribers.
Americans love to buy, buy, buy – it’s in our DNA, I think. A lot of pricey items being promoted in online prepper communities can become “must haves” quickly, in your mind. For instance buying expensive freeze-dried emergency foods or buying an expensive freeze-dryer have been common items I’ve noticed in many prepper videos in the past year. There’s nothing wrong with either, but if you’re on a tight budget, it’s probably wiser to spend your prepping dollars on less expensive basic pantry items that you use regularly. Whatever you do, don’t go into debt with your prepping, because having some money tucked aside for emergencies is really important and just common sense.
The real problem in any emergency situation, but especially a protracted emergency situation, won’t be preppers, even the most extreme preppers. It will be the millions of people who have no money saved and made no effort to have some extra necessities on hand:
“More than half, 51%, of Americans have less than three months’ worth of emergency savings, according to a recent survey from personal finance website Bankrate. The survey includes over 1,000 responses from telephone interviews conducted by SSRS Omnibus between June 22-27, 2021.”
“For 2021, 25% of survey respondents indicate having no emergency savings at all, up from 21% who said they didn’t have any in 2020. Another 26% say they have some emergency savings, but not enough to cover expenses for three months.”
Decades ago I read an article in a magazine about the importance of emergency savings and I tried to teach my kids this too. Back then the article advised having at least $500 put aside for everyday “emergencies” and that would turn those “emergencies” into just minor inconveniences. Few people are born thrifty, resourceful and good at managing money. Most people, myself included, have made loads of really stupid mistakes with money, but we can all learn and try to do better. Nowadays $500 isn’t really enough for lots of those everyday emergencies, but the principle is the same – having some emergency savings can bring a lot of peace of mind to your daily life.
Many years ago I bought a book, Financial Peace, at a yard sale that changed how I viewed personal finances. Dave Ramsey was the author of that book and while he’s become a lightening rod, his approach of “putting common sense into your dollars and cents” works. It can transform living in panic about how to pay all of your bills to truly living a life where you learn some self-discipline with handling your personal finances. Emergency preparedness starts with learning to be more prepared and putting common sense into your daily preparedness – that’s what I worry about with so much of the SHTF “emergency preparedness” advice.
Ramsey developed a system of baby steps to get control of your personal finances that leads to building personal wealth and being financially prepared for emergencies and retirement. I believe personal emergency preparedness makes more sense following baby steps too – like don’t spend a fortune on preparing for doomsday events with lots of pricey gear unless you have your personal finances in order, have emergency savings and you’ve got basic food and everyday supplies in order.
I know people who think “prepping” is ridiculous (some in my own family) and almost invariably these same people have no money saved, no extra food or necessities on hand and worst of all it seems these are the same people who lack even the most basic skill sets to manage in everyday life, let alone an emergency.
Since I started this blog in 2012, I’ve been writing about my belief in learning to be more self-reliant.
When I was a young Army wife (early 1980s), far from home, my husband was away a lot – on field training exercises. I found myself living in communities where I didn’t know hardly anyone when we first arrived at a new Army post and I was taking care of babies, then small children by myself. I didn’t like asking anyone for help, especially neighbors I barely knew, so I started “prepping” from the beginning of our marriage and I took a lot of interest in reading my cookbooks (pre-internet era) and learning what common items could be substitutions for other items in recipes, to avoid a lot of extra trips to the grocery store. We were on a much tighter budget back then. Small bits of knowledge and even acquiring a few basic skill sets can turn fear and anxiety into some self-confidence and more importantly teach you to be a bit more self-reliant. The same goes with managing in emergencies.
Here’s the tricky part for many people – it’s the other huge survival mechanism – strong communities, where neighbors pull together in hard times. Over the years of my husband’s military career, I became a believer in trying to be part of the Army family and getting involved in volunteer activities and helping Army families. Most people these days, myself included, don’t even know most of their neighbors or they have little in common with them. That’s why so many people have turned to online communities to find that kind of community feeling with like-minded people.
I do worry a lot about the state of our country, all the partisan rancor and the new level of craziness since the pandemic started, so I’ve tried to slow down and think more about my ongoing prepping efforts. That was my point – think for yourself and don’t let fears or online hyped hot issues in these crazy times guide your spending or your heart.
I’ve seen discussions in the YouTube prepper community discussing how to deal with folks who didn’t prepare in an emergency asking for food and help or how to hide your food preps inside your home. I’m not turning my home into an armed fortress, but home security at any time is a legitimate concern, as is self-defense. All I’m saying is focus more on building up your everyday food pantry and practical food storage first. My religious and moral beliefs demand that I try to help my neighbors, whether they prepared or not, whether they were 99.9% responsible for their predicament, and regardless of their politics. That issue didn’t even require any discussion for me.
My priorities have always been take care of my own family first, but don’t turn away neighbors or friends in need. I am saying this, because so much of American political chatter these days is about Red vs. Blue/Republicans vs. Democrats and for me there is only One America. I’ll write about the “national divorce” idea, that’s started circulating among some of the Trump right, in the near future. I swore an oath to defend The Constitution when I joined the Army in 1979 and I don’t want to hear any bullshit about a “national divorce” or giving up on the United States of America – EVER!