This page may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn on qualifying purchases. Please see our disclaimer for more information.
Getting started with preparedness can seem overwhelming. Even if you’ve come up with a general plan of what to do and how to do it, the trees can often get in the way of the forest. With the current situation of the world, the feeling of urgency can make you want to complete everything now. To help keep your financial house in order, and not have waste, it’s smart to know how to move forward. These preparedness tips will help you figure out what’s next.
In the previous posts of this special preparedness series, we discussed:
- Reasons you might prepare
- Preparedness tips on how to get started (be sure to check the comments too)
- What a bug out bag is and if you need one
This article is a hodge-podge of ideas to bring the preparedness tips together. I truly believe if you plan your work and work your plan, the long-term results will be worth it. Make no mistake, there are a lot of components to well-rounded preparedness. This article touches on a few pieces. Please do not think you must do everything at once. That would be crazy overwhelming! Pick one or two things to focus on before moving on.
With everything so up in the air right now, after two years of Covid and now the situation in Europe, the sense of urgency is strong. Anything you can do will help but slow and stead will win the race. Be sure to visit the Getting Started post for your first steps. At the very least, please start on your water storage, quickly build to 30 days of basic easy-to-cook food, and have cash on hand for things like groceries, gas, and more.
Budgeting for Preparedness
The majority of us need to work our preparedness efforts into our current budget. In the getting started post, I suggested preparedness tips on finances. Setting up a budget, creating an emergency fund, and getting out of debt are important parts of preparedness.
While setting up a budget can be done in a matter of hours or days (it will need tweaking; it’s not a one-and-done endeavor), it takes time to build an emergency fund and even longer to get out of debt. And then, once out of debt, staying out of debt takes determination and diligence.
With the way things are today, many people are feeling an urgency to build a stockpile of water, food, and more. I get this! I feel the same urgency. Even with the world situation, I’d think long and hard before pulling out a credit card and buying a pallet of freeze-dried food and a pallet of water.
Instead, examine your budget with a fine-tooth comb and find places you can cut back. As you’re doing this, keep your Four Walls in mind. Those are food, utilities, shelter, and transportation.
These four items should be accounted for in your budget before anything else.
Trim Your Budget
Once you’ve budgeted your Four Walls, everything else gets added in.
Note: With the cost of fuel on the rise, you must take this into account when budgeting.
These are the items you may or may not need. For us, when we started our preparedness efforts, we had little excess money. To find dollars to put toward prepping, we had to cut other things. The first thing we got rid of was our satellite TV. That $80 a month went toward food storage. We also severely cut down on dining out and moved that money to preparedness.
If you are a drive-thru coffee fan, cutting back from a daily mocha to twice weekly could translate to twenty pounds of rice and ten pounds of beans each week! I know, I know. Everyone always suggests cutting the coffee first. It’s low-hanging fruit.
While cutting down on drive-thru coffee, dining out, and getting rid of satellite helped us start our preparedness goals, we also had to be creative, especially considering we work on getting out of debt in conjunction with preparedness.
For paying off debt, Dave Ramsey calls this Gazelle Intensity. Truthfully, Old Dave wouldn’t be too happy with us for splitting our debt reduction with buying stuff. But it’s what works for us and helps us sleep at night.
How We’re Currently Budgeting
We are currently pausing excess debt payments and stockpiling cash while increasing certain storage items. Dave suggests doing this during big life events such as expecting a baby. Our debt is minimal, and making only the minimum payments makes sense during this time.
We’re also not keeping our emergency fund in the bank. The 3¢ a month in interest we were earning wasn’t a big enough enticement to not have cash at the ready. With the cost of groceries on the rise and the minimal amount of interest being paid, I’m not sure a savings account (beyond what we are comfortable with for emergencies) makes sense right now. Putting that money toward food you know you will eat will probably give you a larger “earning” in the long run.
Medical Preparedness Tips
If you take prescription medications, talk to your doctor about obtaining extra to have on hand for an emergency. Also, consider early prescription refills so you can keep a few back each time (this article talks about early medication refills). Out-of-country pharmacies are also worth looking into. The FDA has several useful articles on medication safety during an emergency.
In addition to prescription meds, keep the over-the-counter medications you regularly use on hand: pain relievers, cold medicines, heartburn soothers, antidiarrhea, athlete’s foot, antibiotic ointments, allergy medicine…anything you routinely use or purchase. If you’re buying new items to stock your medicine cabinet, be sure to look at any interactions that may occur with your prescriptions.
Speaking of the medicine cabinet…it’s not the best place to store meds. The heat and moisture from the bathroom can damage your medicine. Instead, store them in a cool, dry place.
What About Antibiotics?
You may have heard/read about buying fish or animal antibiotics. Having worked in the medical field years ago, I know just enough about antibiotics and other prescription meds to know I don’t know much! What I do know is antibiotics (and other prescription and OTC meds) are not candy. Education and knowledge is important.
Check out this short video from Patriot Nurse, which gives good info on why you might consider adding these to your personal medical stores. For much more in-depth info, here’s a longer video from Dr. Alton and Nurse Amy. This video also talks about stockpiling prescription meds.
If after doing your own research you choose to add these, be sure you have a guide and know how to use each item you stock. Here’s another Patriot Nurse video on the top five antibiotics she suggests.
Herbs and herbal remedies are also something to consider stockpiling and/or growing. Like prescriptions and OTC meds, these can also be very powerful. I’m taking a course through LearningHerbs. They offer a variety of home herbalist courses.
Band-Aids, gauze pads, steri-strips, and more should also go in your medical supplies. The Red Cross offers guidance on building a basic first-aid kit. And here’s information on a trauma kit, including details on the differences between a first aid kit and trauma kit.
Tip: Everything in your medicine cabinet, first aid kit, and/or trauma kit should be items you are familiar with and know how to use.
Buying in Bulk
One of our budgeting techniques is to reduce our weekly grocery spending as low as possible. We ate plain, simple meals while not only building our food storage but also switching to a traditional foods diet. In the archives of this blog, you cana find years’ worth of menu plans mostly focused on rice, beans, and wild game in an effort to eat nourishing and inexpensive food.
We found that buying our basic foods in bulk gave us the most bang for our buck. With grocery costs on the rise, bulk is usually still a better deal pound for pound.
Around the time we decided to get serious with our preparedness efforts and really bulk up our food storage (see what I did there?), I read some preparedness tips on a survival forum, and one stated that the absolute least expensive way to get a year’s supply of food was to buy 400 pounds of whole dried corn, 60 pounds of whole peas, 6 pounds of table salt, and 4 gallons of vegetable oil.
While we preferred sea salt and coconut oil, the idea of dried corn and dried peas had merit. And when I checked the prices on Azure Standard (where I got most of my bulk items) peas were the least expensive legume and corn was the least expensive grain (at that time).
Hesitation About Buying in Bulk
I’ll admit, I was hesitant to buy in bulk. What if we bought a big bag of something and we hated it or I didn’t know how to cook it? The easy solution: buy smaller amounts and make a few dishes.
Or what if we bought a lot and it went bad? Another easy solution: learn how to properly prepare for long-term food storage. Beans, rice, barley, oats, corn, and more store for years in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers tucked in a five-gallon bucket. I watched a YouTube video to learn the process (there are tons of them).
For some Items, I use my vacuum sealer instead of mylar and buckets. The vacuum sealer works great from things like pasta.
Preparedness Tips for Buying in Bulk
Even if it was the most economical, I didn’t start with whole peas and dried corn. I started with things we were familiar with: pinto beans, black beans, rice (lots of rice), and a few others. But soon I was having so much fun trying new things, we just continued. Buying wheat was fun! Hard red, hard white, soft white—I had no idea there were so many varieties or that each had a different flavor and special use.
I did finally get around to trying whole peas when another friend shared her whole pea sprouting adventures. Peas are very good and very cheap. Like everything, the price of whole peas has increased. They were 41¢ a pound (in 25-pound bags) and are now 89¢. But at Azure Standard, they are still less than my beloved pinto beans, black beans, and even lentils.
Buying in bulk, even with today’s prices, can still save you money. There are other online websites to order in bulk, plus local health food stores or regular grocery chains may place bulk orders for you. Don’t limit yourself to giant 25 or 50 pounds bags either. An 8-pound bag of pinto beans from your local store may be less per ounce than the 1-pound bag or what you can order. Check the math for the best deal. Supplies are an issue in many instances, so be willing to try things you aren’t familiar with by starting with smaller amounts of varieties in abundance.
While we do package our bulk purchases for long-term storage, we still eat these items (store what you eat, eat what you store) and rotate these (first in, first out, or FIFO) just like the “regular” grocery store foods mentioned in this post. We also don’t just rely on those bulk grains and legumes. We also add in a substantial amount of sea salt, coconut oil, herbs, spices, and more. Many of these are also purchased in bulk.
Some grocery stores do case lot sales or special bulk buying events. I include these in bulk buying. This is when a price book, mentioned in this article, really comes in handy. You can easily see if the case price of tomatoes beats what you can find on regular days.
Tip: Not only should you know how to cook, bake, or prepare everything in your food storage, but consider how you will do these things during a power outage or other event. Does your stove/oven work if the power is out? Do you have alternate cooking methods?
Our most consistent savings over the years has been from buying in bulk and being willing to try “weird” things. For years, we kept the freezer full because many local farmers and ranchers knew we were the ones to call when they were doing home butchering and had parts they weren’t fond of. One of my friends would call me up and say, “I’ve got a licker and a ticker for you.”
We’d also get soup bones and amazing deals on other things. One dairy farmer offered us roasts and ground meat for 99¢ a pound! And we’d often get calls from people right before hunting season asking if we wanted to help them clean out their freezer. We’d do the same and give away chicken legs from a butchering project to anyone who wanted them.
Yes, these things are likely location-dependent, but you may have similar opportunities in your area. People may not offer you last year’s antelope, but maybe there are fruit trees or fields for gleaning? Every dime we could shave off our food budget each week could be put toward food storage and supplies.
Saving Money at the Grocery Store
Loss leaders (those items the grocery stores markdown to rock bottom prices to entice you in so you’ll buy more of the non-sale items) are another great way to save. I’m not one to run to multiple grocery stores (we only have two in town!), but I will buy extras of things I know we’ll use when they’re on sale. I also plan meals specifically around perishable sale items.
These loss leaders tend to be seasonal. St. Patrick’s Day means lower prices on cabbage and (sometimes) corned beef. Cans of tuna* are often on sale during Lent. Eggs go down at Easter. Right now, following the supply issues during Covid and now with the situation in Europe, we may not see the same items or the deep discounts, but it is still worth watching for these and purchasing accordingly.
For most people, the biggest grocery expense is meat. Meat is also the most expensive thing to add to your food storage. Cans of tuna are very popular for food storage. At 50¢ to 75¢ a can, they seem like a great buy. But how many of those little 5-ounce cans do you need to make a meal? Doing the math might surprise you.
Salvage grocers may also be an option for bulk and/or rock bottom prices. These items are usually scratch-and-dent or near the end of the best-by date. Salvage store purchases may or may not be good choices for your food storage depending on the item and their best-by date. The best by date doesn’t mean the food magically goes bad on that date, but it is a good indicator of when to use it by. Even if salvage goods aren’t suitable for longer-term storage, they could help with opening up more room in your budget to buy other items.
Preparedness Tips for Finding Extra Money
Right now, it may be extremely difficult to find extra money. Fuel is going up daily (in some cases hourly), grocery costs are increasing, and everything feels like a mess. You may need to trim your budget just for your day-to-day expenses.
What else can you do? Can you get a second job? Sell your second (or third) car? Excess furniture? Outgrown clothes? That exercise bike in the corner gathering dust? Consider every option for putting cash in your hand. Use that cash not only to build your food storage but also for the ever-mounting expenses.
If you think you have nothing left to cut, check out this article from The Prudent Homemaker for more ideas.
Tip: While I do buy tuna to keep on my shelf, it’s not part of my long-term food storage. Tuna in water gets mushy. You may not mind this, but if you do, decide how much tuna is a reasonable amount to keep on hand and be sure to practice first in, first out. Tuna isn’t the only item that’s not well-suited for long-term storage. Anything containing high fat tends to go rancid. Things like crackers, while shelf-stable, go stale after time. Pay attention to these items and rotate them properly.
Preparedness Tips for Security
What can you do to make your home as safe as possible? Here are 10 Low-Cost Ways to Improve Your Home Security from Bob Vila (including a social media tip). The Prepper’s Guide to Securing Your Home from The Provident Prepper is a very in-depth look at securing your home and valuables, OPSEC, and looking at your home through the eyes of a thief.
Weapons and weapons training should also be considered under security. Whatever weapon you choose to use to defend yourself and your family, you should be well-trained in how to use it. You should also choose the right tool for the job. Wasp spray is for wasps. If you are looking for a non-lethal option, there are plenty on the market designed for personal self-defense.
Again, use the right tool for the job. How close does someone need to be for you to use a stun gun? Mace? A karate chop? If you decide a handgun or long gun meets your needs, proper training is essential. Check the NRA website for training courses or check with a local gun store about options near you.
Finding Storage Space
As you build your food storage and non-food supplies, consider where you’re going to put everything. Most of us don’t want flats of canned goods in the living room.
Start with what you have. Organize your pantry and cabinets. Pull everything out, then wipe down the shelves and put things away. Keeping like items together, just like in a grocery store, is very helpful. These items should be used first (first in, first out) before your new purchases. I like to mark on things I need to use with a magic marker. I’ll write “Use 1st” or just “Use” so we know to grab that can of tomatoes before the others.
Once everything is neat and organized, you’ll probably find you have a lot more room than you expected. You can also do the same things with your pots and pans. There’s no rule that you can’t tuck a few containers of rice in with your pans!
When thinking about where to store your shelf-stable foods, consider the climate. Your food should be kept in an area that is somewhat climate-controlled and has low light. Canned goods (both commercial and home-canned) should not be exposed to extreme temperatures. Home-canned seals can break, and commercial cans can bulge.
An attic likely gets too hot in the summer months for food storage (consider this space for other things like toilet paper and bandages). Your garage may also get too hot and/or too cold. Or you may wish to consider a nifty air-conditioned, insulated pantry in your garage like the Prudent Homemaker has. If you have a basement, this might be an ideal space to add a few shelves or freestanding cabinets for storage.
Finding Additional Storage Space
For most of us, even after organizing and sorting, we need to find additional storage space to meet our goals. How about the bedroom closet? Is it cool and dark? Can you eek out a little space by adding narrow shelves? In our previous house, I kept my ferments on shelves in the master closet. It was cold like a root cellar and was the perfect space. Under the bed may also work for you, especially if you use the little riser things to lift the bed slightly so flat totes can fit underneath.
Adding a label on the visible edge of the tote will make your life easier. This label could be general (such as canned goods) or might correspond with a spreadsheet or notebook for additional details. Find a system that works best for your personality, but do try and mark your containers in some way so you don’t have to pull everything out to find what you’re looking for.
Our closet and under-bed storage are also subject to the first in, first out (FIFO) rotation. When my kitchen shelf is running low on coconut milk, I shop the tote first, replenishing from there, then buying new products to refill the tote. I like to mark on each can, box, carton, etc. the date of purchase in magic marker. This gives me at-a-glance FIFO information.
When we were designing our current home, we added a few built-in storage locations. At our previous house, storage space was extremely limited and we used many different methods: not only under the bed (we had these metal bed frames, which are a great height for storage) but also a multitude of other places. Remember, you can store food anywhere, not just in the kitchen.
Places We’ve Used For Storage
- We added curtains to freestanding shelves that we used to hold five-gallon buckets (metal shelves can be reconfigured slightly for size)
- Bookshelves were put behind the couch and used for canned goods (scoot the couch up tight against them)
- We added a row of cans behind books on shelves
- I was given a wooden armoire that we reworked to hold cans and boxes
- Freestanding shelves were added in the laundry room (for water storage)
- Closets were reconfigured to add shelving for food storage
- We did a lot of dehydrating (dehydrated goods shrink down and take up less space)
- Anything that could be stored in the garage (not temperature controlled) was put in the rafters
Other Storage Spaces You May Consider
- Fill totes and stack them on top of each other, then cover them with a pretty cloth to make a side table or nightstand
- If you store mason jars, fill them with grains, pasta, water…just about anything instead of storing them empty
- Look for any nook and cranny to add shelves or storage units. The space between the fridge and the wall may be large enough for a roll-out shelving unit (readymade or custom-built)
- Storage ottomans are great! I have something like this in my living room and these in my office
- Do you have stairs? Can you use the space underneath?
- Is there space above your kitchen cabinets? Can you put items in baskets or pretty boxes there?
- If you’re looking to get creative, consider cutting into the back of your sofa and adding shelves to store lightweight items. Or you could open up a section of a wall, add shelves, and put a hinged mirror/door across the front.
- An old freezer may work as a root cellar or to store 5-gallon buckets
- Do you have a crawl space? Can it be utilized for storing buckets or totes?
- Do you have a like-minded friend or family member who (preferably) lives nearby? Can you team up and share storage space?
Food storage and other supplies are fantastic. But it’s also important to think beyond the filled cupboards and 5-gallon buckets and take a look at skills. At the very least, you should have the skills and/or knowledge to use or prepare everything you are storing. Some things you may wish to consider are gardening (as food prices continue to rise, this is a skill of true value), animal husbandry, hunting, snares or traps, basic to advanced medical training, off-grid cooking and living, bushcraft…
Find something that interests you and explore it. When we first started our preparedness journey, it coincided with learning traditional cooking skills: lacto-fermentation, dehydrating, sprouting, and sourdough. These many-centuries-old skills were something I enjoyed, and they provide numerous benefits. They also give me another food preparation option. With sourdough, I don’t need to store yeast. For sprouting, I can save my garden seeds to provide fresh greens in winter.
Every planned effort you make today, no matter how seemingly small, can be a benefit in the long run. Do what you can do and give the rest to God.
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” ~ Luke 12:25
What are your favorite preparedness tips? Leave a comment below!