A long-winded ramble, again

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot is how there’s so much online social media noise about “a total collapse is coming” and endless lists and advice on how to prepare for that catastrophic event. The thing is a total collapse could be a long process, with periods of accelerated economic chaos and years of lulls, it could be a rapid “collapse” or a total collapse might not happen at all. I prefer to look at a range of potential circumstances from less dramatic to the worst case, then I look at my resources, my skill level, how much time I have to invest in various options. Most people have a very finite amount of resources, skills and time to put into increasing their preparedness level. As inflation has increased our money, a key resource in buying more supplies, has less and less buying power.

If you decide to short-change on the much more likely emergency type situations and opt to put all of your money and time into prepping for the most extreme situations, you could come up short on being prepared for the much more likely emergencies. I’m not talking about basic items, like food and water, here, but about things like special gear and equipment for some worst case SHTF type events or trying to invest in too many projects that you have no experience at doing or a realistic understanding of the costs involved with those projects..

For instance, I’m not investing any money into supplies for some specific doomsday type scenarios items, like buying a hazmat suit or gas mask, when there are dozens of home repair and other items that should be done in my home or that will likely serve me better in the much more likely bad weather events that regularly hit my area. Likewise, I’m not making rash money decisions, like pulling all my money out of the bank, based on online hysteria. I’m not going to sacrifice being prepared for much more likely emergencies and focus on only worst case scenarios. A storm damaging my home is more likely than a complete collapse of the economy, so having adequate insurance on my home and personal property seems more important than some of the items on doomsday prepping lists I’ve seen. Everyone has to weigh how much money they have and then decide how they’re going to use it. For me, I assess having a jack and spare tire is likely going to be more useful than carrying around a Geiger counter – that’s what I mean about making risk assessments – it’s very personal choices. Finding some balance can be hard, because most people who focus on preparedness want to be prepared for everything.

Every financial news report I’ve seen predicts a worsening economic situation for 2023 with more shortages and higher inflation. How we go about preparing should be geared toward our individual needs and situation. I got to thinking about this after seeing more “You will need this to survive” lists online.

That got me thinking about the amount of “how-to” content online I browse through to learn various things. My Pinterest account has over 14,000 links pinned. Pinterest replaced the old days of my clipping magazine articles and recipes. Often I look at several recipes of the same dish to find one that I decide to try. YouTube advice is like that too, I consider a lot of ideas and discard way more than I decide to try. With the preparedness advice, I have to work harder to tune out the hysteria and a lot of advice that might be well-meaning, but it’s just not advice I agree with or that fits my life. I am not rushing out to stock up on another list of items someone online is warning is vital for my survival when the collapse happens. I’ll think about what I have, what I use, my budget, and even what supply issues I’m seeing in my own local stores or with shopping online.

I’m also not interested in proving the government’s lying about the inflation numbers, because I googled how the government comes up with the inflation rate and it’s a bit complicated (and convoluted). They analyze the prices of over 80,000 consumer goods across the country and then use some other data to arrive at the inflation rate. So, if I keep lists of a few dozen items I buy and come up with the inflation rate on my stuff, that doesn’t mean anything really. It’s a different methodology than the government uses and I certainly don’t want to analyze the prices of 80,000 consumer goods or figure out their methodology.

I’ll just assume whoever’s in the WH is going to use all kinds of word games (lies) and use bits of data to try to paint a happy face on the economic situation. I’m not organized enough or smart enough at math and data analysis to try to keep track of America’s economy. I try to loosely keep track of prices in my area and where I shop online and try to figure out my shopping list from that. Lately, the cat food aisle where I usually shop looks like the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020, so stocking up more cat food (and dog food too) has been a priority. I googled “cat food shortage” and read a few news articles on the cat food shortage situation, so it’s not just my local store. Yesterday, I noticed in my local Walmart that the price of the French and Italian bread, their bakery has sold for $1 for years, is now $1.47. Even the loaves marked down for quick sale were $1.03. At the rate things are going I might need a goose that lays golden eggs to even afford a dozen chicken eggs.

Great sale items might be a “great deal” for other people, but might not be for me. I watched a video the other day where the lady talked about purchasing 100 avocados for 25 cents each and she made guacamole with them, put it in ziploc bags, and froze it. She said she has a year’s worth of guacamole for her family. That might be a great savings for her, but for someone else spending $25 of their food budget on a snack item might not be a smart move. Always cover the basics first, is important I think. I shop so I have basic ingredients for meals first. This reminded me of the couponing phases I went through over the years, purchasing a lot of snack and convenience food using coupons and that stuff just sat in my pantry. My husband asked me why I was buying so much weird junk food that even the kids didn’t touch. I learned to keep to what my family eats, including snacks and trying new snack items with one box or bag, to see if my family liked it. With avocados, I have purchased several at a time before, cut them up, sprinkled lime juice on them, to freeze in small bags that I can pull out and use easily. Perhaps, $5 worth of 25 cent avocados would work better for me than 100. Finding what fits you is more economical than buying foods you don’t like, don’t know how to use, or take too big of a chunk out of your food budget.

I like having mostly basic ingredients that I can use to prepare a variety of dishes and less quick meal packaged items. Avoiding trendy foods has taken me time to learn. For instance, I don’t like the texture or taste of quinoa, so I’m not stocking up on that. One of my daughters told me that if it was prepared properly I would like quinoa. I followed the instructions to the letter and I don’t like it. I also don’t care one iota about “ancient grains,” so I’m skipping those too. I don’t get excited about non-GMO, organic, or any of these other trendy terms that food manufacturers and the health food industry sell. I read labels, and try to stick to items with short ingredient lists, that I know what they are, not chemical-type names that I have no clue what it even is. I grew up when we were being sold the lie of margarine as a healthier choice than butter. If all these terms are important to you, have at it. All I can say is that if food shortage situations do get worse, a lot of us will have to get used to being less fussy and use what we can find.

Next thing I want to mention is herbal remedies and prescription medications. I recently ran into an out-of-stock issue with one of my prescription medications and had to work with my primary care doctor to get it worked out. Considering the US imports so much medication from China, shortages could become an increasing problem, so trying to stock up as much as you can is prudent. That’s going to vary with your medical insurance. I can get a 90-day supply at a time of my prescriptions medications. I’ve also been learning more about medicinal herbs.

I’ve been very interested in herbal remedies since I was a kid, but with taking prescription medications, I talk to my primary care doctor and consider his advice. I keep him informed of what herbal supplements I take. I grew up with some older relatives who were proponents of PA Dutch Powwow medicine (an odd combination of herbal and faith-healing.) My mother was a RN and she was a modern medicine person. I kind of stick my toes in both worlds. I recommend doing a lot of research about what the chemical properties in various herbs are that are purported to have health benefits, research into those claims and also check out warnings about various herbal remedies and certain medical conditions or by mixing some herbal remedies with some prescription medications.

Many herbal remedies do work, but for many there’s no research to back up the claims. For instance, cinnamon has been mentioned as helping to control blood sugar and often now it’s sold by the over-the-counter diabetes type supplies in pharmacies. However, the Mayo Clinic states the research is inclusive and advises caution on high doses for people with liver disease. We all have to make our own decisions, but trying to gather information from both herbal medicine and traditional medicine sites, plus talking to my doctor, is how I go about making a decision. I try to use more cinnamon in my diet, but cinnamon capsules sold as a supplement upset my stomach, so I opted for that approach. Even if the medicinal claims don’t pan out, cinnamon tastes wonderful in many dishes.

Just because my grandmother did it doesn’t mean it was the best thing. My maternal grandmother believed in PA Dutch Powwow medicine, but she also kept every packet of pills the doctor ever prescribed for her in her large purse. She wouldn’t throw any of it out, because she “paid good money for it,” despite all my mother’s pleading with her that pills don’t’ stay good forever. Yes, it’s good to learn as many medical skills as you can and also alternative medicine too, because we just might need them, in an emergency or if some major chaos happens. However, there’s a tendency by a lot of people, especially people embracing old-fashioned living, to romanticize what our ancestors did and discard modern science completely Some of the old medical treatments worked, but many are scary and dangerous.

I have known many people who mix up their own potions and syrups, and remedies. My paternal great-grandmother cooked up a very effective drawing salve that she used on her farm animals she told me, but it also worked on human cuts and scrapes. She also had some home remedies that were a bit questionable. A lot of home remedies for coughs and colds, teething, etc. contain a lot of alcohol. Some people are okay with rubbing whiskey on babies gums or giving small children shots of high-proof cough syrups, but it wasn’t for me. For instance, laudanum, a tincture of opium mixed with alcohol, was widely used and abused in the 19th century. Laudanum was routinely used for pain and a variety of ailments. Many things touted as alternative medicine or health/natural remedies become fads, so I tread cautiously with the health remedies getting the most buzz in pop culture and online. And yes, it goes without saying there have been alarming lapses in safety testing of many prescription medications and preventative measures too, so it’s best to do some research and ask a lot of questions. My mother kept a copy of the PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) that she turned to often to check out drug information. Now, we have the internet where we can find all sorts of studies and information ourselves. With the natural remedies vs. modern medicine, I think usually when medical situations go horribly wrong or it’s a life-threatening medical emergency, most people aren’t going to go off into the woods to find an expert on home remedies or call granny, they’re likely going to go to a modern medical center for help or call 911, if they can. I am a cancer survivor and I am thankful for the modern medicine that saved my life.

Do what works for you, but we should all try to be open to new information too and be prepared for the more common emergencies rather than fixate on only the most extreme scenarios. If you believe everything is doomed, you’re hunkering down and talking yourself into a bunker mentality. If you believe everything is doomed, you’re also not likely to put much effort into fixing things or trying to make things work – it’s all about giving up on America and saying it’s a lost cause. I just can’t buy into that.

Update 1/12/2023: I just wanted to add this since we’re only in January of this year and today I encountered the second prescription medication out-of-stock issue on another medication I regularly take. I’ll have to work with my primary care doctor to work something out.

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