Skip the cookie-cutters, if life gets hectic

Cookie-cutter solutions don’t resolve complex problems. That’s the theme of this blog post. And yes, it’s going to be about emergency preparedness. Many people, myself included, like simple steps to follow to accomplish tasks. In fact, I like most things in my life, from religious teachings to instructions on filing my income taxes, boiled down to simple rules to follow.

Unfortunately, life is complicated and some things like the federal tax code remain beyond my level of patience or understanding.

If you download the Internal Revenue Code from the United States Code, also known as Title 26 in the document, the file is 6.550 pages if you download it and print it out, according to one site, but other sites state a few thousand less pages to tens of thousands more pages. You get the drift, it’s not simple rules.

I think most people like certainty and predictability in our lives and that’s why most people have a daily routine, make schedules and prefer plans to provide a sense of security and some guardrails to their lives.

From the browsing magazine days to the internet age, headlines with “5 Easy Steps To…” or “10 Ways to Transform…” appeal to many people. Heck, I’m one of those people and if a headline promises 12 quick tips and offers 13, as a bonus, I read or listen to the end.

Here’s the thing about simple steps to change ingrained behaviors – they don’t work for most people, because we are creatures of habit and it’s hard to break habits, especially bad ones. It’s even harder to break ingrained beliefs and break emotional responses. You’ve got to change your heart to make real changes in your life. You’ve got to commit to change your behavior.

Most of our problems are caused by our emotional reactions, not by a lack of information, because frankly most people know they’re screwing up when they spend more than they make or have totally screwed up priorities, like putting entertainment and fancy toys ahead of paying their bills or buying groceries. I’ve listened to loads of people over the years, family, friends, co-workers, doing volunteer work and heck, I’ve looked in the mirror and faced myself doing some of these same things – making excuses for bad behaviors and bad choices.

The first real step to take with emergency preparedness isn’t to just rush out and start buying food or supplies, it’s to take a little time to think about your family’s finances and then do an inventory of your pantry and other supplies.

It’s really risky to assume everything’s going to collapse, spend every last cent you have to try to stock up on everything, or even worse run up credit cards to stock up and then everything doesn’t collapse. You will have put you and your family in worse peril in an economic crisis. You won’t have the means to buy supplies, pay your bills, or deal with some unforeseen crisis. The chances are all that rushing around stocking up won’t cover all the things you will need. Having an emergency savings account as a first step is what Dave Ramsey advises and I believe that is the best first line of defense to cover as many bases as possible.

The second part of cookie-cutter solutions is complex global systems have so many moving parts that even the smartest geopolitical and economic experts can’t analyze and diagnose all the moving parts and determine what’s all broken, let alone how to fix them.

Here’s where many people leap into conspiracy theory territory, trying to blame some nefarious “they” as being behind all the catastrophes on the horizon. It’s easier to blame some “they,” as in “they are trying to destroy our food supply,” but when you look for details on who are the “they” and actual evidence, well, most people who buy into this aren’t able to give specifics. They’ll likely point to some person online, who did a video about it and they believe that person. That other person also usually presents a lot of drivel and convoluted assertions. There’s so much of this across the American political spectrum and especially on social media. If people get angry or hostile when someone disagrees with them or questions them, buyer beware. I’ve bought into stories online that turn out not to be true and we should all be open to having our ideas, advice and assertions questioned, without getting defensive or hostile.

I do believe it’s prudent to stock up your pantry as much as you can, especially right now and store water and basic supplies, but don’t let panic take hold in your life. Panic and fear lead to people becoming emotional train wrecks, especially in serious crises. We’re at the beginning of some potentially very serious economic crises, along with some geopolitical and domestic political turmoil too. Getting upset and angry daily or reacting to too much social media and news media drama can seriously impact your mental health. In the worst crises, most people still try to preserve as much of their daily lives as possible. Even refugees try to set up some sort of shelter, cook meals, wash their clothes, care for their families. It’s important not to let your life be taken over with social media drama or news/political drama.

I have been guilty of impulse buying so many times after watching videos – from needlework videos to prepper videos and I’ve got plenty of items I doubt I’ll ever use. With my crafting and sewing projects for years my husband and kids would cringe when I showed them some project where I used some long-ago item from among my mountains of supplies and went into one of my “happy hoarding” stories about how great it was that I kept all this stuff, because look how perfect this item turned out to be for this project. That’s all well and good, but what I didn’t happily tell them were the many times I went to the store and purchased sewing and craft items that I knew I had… somewhere in my multitude of containers and totes of supplies, but I couldn’t locate them.

Impulsively, grabbing cans of this and that isn’t really a good way to prepare your pantry, although working at stocking up by buying 5 extra cans each time you buy groceries can be a good way to start building up your pantry without breaking the bank. Seriously begin to inventory what you’ve got. Organize it. Look at what you and your family eat. Stock up on items that are part of your family’s diet and once you have an adequate supply of those items, expand outward, if you want to move toward longer term food storage items.

Whatever you do, try to stick within your means and your budget and keep some emergency savings. If you don’t have any money for emergency savings, that should be a priority too. I think Chris at City Prepping offers practical steps in a very clear emergency preparedness plan. He avoids the fearmongering and alarmism, while explaining the serious crises that are brewing. I also find The Provident Prepper a very good source and I have their handbook, which is packed with useful emergency preparedness information.

Just like with my craft and sewing stuff, lack of organization leads to a lot of waste in my pantry too. Having some idea how much you actually use of various items, in a week, a month or a year can help you figure out how much is an adequate amount to stock up on. Thinking about how much you can properly store and how much you have space to store is important too. I struggle with organization, because I acquire too much stuff and then cling to it a long, long time (speaking decades here). My youngest daughter recently sent me information on McCormick spices in metal cans and told me they stopped putting their spices in metal cans in 1985, except for black pepper and they acquired Old Bay seasoning in 1990. She told me I should get rid of the metal cans. I told her I had done that (only a few years ago, truthfully). That’s how I am about clinging to stuff.

I see so much information on emergency preparedness that focuses on buying barter items and all sorts of things that pertain to if there’s a total economic collapse, but the reality is if there’s not a total collapse, your local garage probably isn’t going to take barter items for a new tire and you won’t be able to barter with the AC repairman or plumber, if your AC dies or you have a water leak that requires a professional. We have to live every day in the world we’re in, not in some future doomsday scenario.

No one knows for sure how bad things will get with the economy or exactly how it will play out. Just a few days ago, there was a domestic political event, the leaking of a Supreme Court draft letter on Roe v. Wade, that could lead to the Summer of 2022 turning into a lot like the Summer of 2020, with those “mostly peaceful protests.” Here in the US we might have more civil unrest and it’s a major election year, with control of the US Congress in the balance.

Trying to get your personal finances in as good of order as you can and stocking up are important parts to being prepared, so is staying calm and keeping your home life as normal as possible. And here’s some cookie baking advice, if things get too hectic or you’re in a hurry, skip looking for the cookie-cutters and go for a simple drop cookie recipe, that just requires you to plop spoonfuls of cookie dough on the cookie sheet.

Simplify your life wherever you can, especially your finances. Stocking up on basics is very important. Having emergency savings is very important too and it covers a whole lot of the unforeseen crises in life.

I always think of more to add after I make a blog post. If someone asked my advice on which to do first – the emergency savings or stock up to build an emergency food supply, at this point in time with the food shortage problems, here’s what I would advise – do both. I’d suggest making cuts wherever you can in your budget – and then decide on how much of that extra bit, even if it’s only $20 you want to put in emergency savings and how much toward the emergency food supply. If you use credit cards, avoid racking up more credit card debt,

My local Walmart still has 15 oz. cans of Great Value brand vegetables for 54 cents and frozen bags of vegetables for $1. Meat, of course, is ridiculously expensive, but an 80 oz. bag of white rice at my Walmart is $2.48 and there are several types of dried beans under $2 a bag, so there are still some basics you can stock up on. A 5 lb. bag of Great Value brand all-purpose flour is $1.78. Focus on what you can manage, and don’t worry about what all you can’t afford or what other people with spectacularly stocked, Pinterest-worthy pantries have.

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Filed under Emergency Preparedness, General Interest

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