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I’m back with another way we use the pantry principle in our home! What’s the pantry principle? Thank you for asking! It’s the idea of stockpiling your pantry with food purchased at the lowest possible price. This concept is a wonderful way to have everything you need on hand at mealtime while saving money and eliminating the need to run to the store for a forgotten item. I share how we use this concept in The Pantry Principle: Making it Work For You and in a follow-up article that uses the same concept for your freezer. I love this stockpiling strategy so much, we use it for nonfood items too! In this article, we’ll discuss the pantry principle for your emergency medical supplies.
Emergency medical supplies, such as a well-stocked first aid kit (FAK), can help you provide necessary treatment immediately. You can even purchase fully stocked kits that take the guesswork out of what you should add. At the very minimum, keep a kit in each car and easily accessible at home.
In my house, we purchased basic kits for our vehicles and beefed them up with additional items to fit our specific lifestyle. We also have a small individual first aid kit (IFAK) in each Get Home Bag (GHB) and in our go-bags (sometimes called bug-out bags or BOBs—don’t you love all the abbreviations in the wonderful world of preparedness…hmm, is that WWP?) In addition to all the kits, we also keep a well-stocked medicine closet.
Knowledge & Training
Before we get into suggestions for different kinds of kits and supplies, let’s discuss knowledge and training. All the fancy medical kits in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t have the knowledge—the training—to use the components. Sure, it’s not too hard to open a bandage and place it over a cut. But if you’re stocking specialized items for a major trauma kit, things can really change.
At the very least, I believe everyone in your family should have age-appropriate first aid training. For very young kids, an important part of the training has little to do with emergency medical supplies but more with learning how to prevent unnecessary danger. Children should be taught about safety at an early age, while minimizing risks yet still allowing them to explore and grow. Not always an easy task!
Young children can be taught to call 911 (or the appropriate emergency number for your area). They should also be aware of any medical issues (diabetes, epilepsy, anaphylactic allergies, etc.) they or close family members may have. Many young children can be taught how to apply pressure to a bleeding wound. Some may be able to learn very basic, compression only, CPR. Older children can learn more as needed. We’ve added first aid and CPR to our homeschool curriculum.
My husband and I are both first aid and CPR trained, with me having some slightly more advanced training than him. I love the mission of Doom & Bloom Survival Medicine (Dr. “Bones” Joe Alton and Nurse Amy) to put a medically prepared person in every family. Their podcasts and blog posts provide excellent information for those who are unable to receive hands-on training. They even offer limited availability in-person classes! If you can’t join Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy, check locally for training/classes through The Red Cross; they offer some virtual options as well. A quick google search will also give you other local options.
Storing Emergency Medical Supplies
All the emergency medical supplies in the world are of no use if you can’t easily find them. Or if, when you need them, they are unusable.
Most people store their medicine and basic medical supplies (bandages and ointments) in their bathroom medicine cabinet. But the best place to store medicine and other emergency medical supplies is not the bathroom. The heat and humidity from the shower/bath can damage pills and make them lose some of their potency. For the same reason, storing medical supplies near the stove or sink in the kitchen is also a bad idea.
It’s a good idea to store your emergency medical supplies in an area that is cool, dry, and dark. You may recall these as the same recommendations to best store your food items too! With medical supplies, it’s also important to remember safety. Keep medications in their original bottles and safely away from children and others. Consider a locked closet, cabinet, or drawer.
Building a portable FAK or IFAK may require a different container than a large first aid kit typically kept in houses. For your home supplies, where you store them may also somewhat determine your organizational needs.
For our vehicle first aid kit, we purchased already stocked, soft-sided Molle system compatible containers. I like these kits for what they offer—a decent starter kit for a single person or small family, in a sturdy bag with the possibility to expand—and for the entry-level pricing. If you don’t want to take the time to buy a separate container and supplies, this is an easy way to go.
If you’d like to build your own FAK or IFAK, I recommend this very detailed article from Common Sense Home. They’ll walk you through how to build not only kits suitable for your car and home but also small, pocket-sized IFAKs. I especially appreciate their tip on standardizing kits of similar sizes to cut down on response time and to help with rotating supplies.
Your home kit could be a single kit or a collection of kits. You might want to choose a soft-sided one or go with a variety of lidded bins. Other storage containers to consider are hanging roll up beauty bags, hanging clear shoe bag organizers, insulated lunch boxes (available in a variety of sizes and many fold nearly flat when empty), and stackable tool chest system.
In my home, we have a combination of storage shelves and lidded bins. Things we want at our fingertips are arranged on narrow shelves in a closet built just for this purpose. These are items like over-the-counter painkillers and band-aids… the kind of things most people would keep in their bathroom medicine cabinet.
Our more in-depth medical supplies are kept in clear lidded bins and labeled with the general contents. Each bin has a specific purpose. There’s a dental bin, a wound care bin, etc. The important thing is to keep like items together. At the top of each bin, so I will see it as soon as I take off the lid, I keep a handwritten list of what’s inside. On my computer, I keep a spreadsheet detailing the same information for each bin.
We also have a couple of additional bins containing back stock for refilling the narrow shelves and the dedicated emergency medical supplies. These are labeled for contents and include the handwritten note and corresponding computer spreadsheet.
We keep the bins organized on a portable storage unit at the back of the medicine closet with the labels prominently displayed. Emergency medical supplies benefit from proper rotation in a similar manner as food storage. We still practice our first in, first out (FIFO) concept and don’t overbuy on items we don’t regularly use.
While some emergency medical supplies are universal, there are many items that may be specific or unique to you and your family. If you take prescription medications, these should be included in your medical supplies. Here’s an article on How to Stockpile Medications in Case of an Emergency.
Antibiotics are another hot topic in preparedness circles. Specifically, stockpiling antibiotics for future use. For years, many have relied on animal or fish antibiotics for this purpose, but in June of 2023, livestock and companion pet antibiotics will only be available through a veterinarian.
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.
For other basic and emergency medical supplies to consider for your home, car, FAK, or IFAK, check out this article from the Mayo Clinic and revisit the article linked above from Common Sense Home. Both give well-rounded and necessary information.
Something important to remember, serious wounds require continual care. You’ll often change the bandage or dressing daily or several times a day. You may go through a considerable amount of gauze pads, gauze rolls, tape, vet wrap, ointment, etc. Plan ahead!
Before I sign off, I want to remind you of the importance of training. Learn the basics. Then learn a little more. Watch videos. Build a library of reference books. Here are a few I recommend from my own collection:
- The Ultimate Survival Medicine Guide: Emergency Preparedness for Any Disaster by Joseph Alton, M.D. & Amy Alton, ARNP
- EMRA Antibiotic Guide by Brian J. Levine
- Where There Is No Doctor by David Werner
- Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson
- Living Ready Pocket Manual – First Aid: Fundamentals for Survival by James Hubbard, M.D.
- Homesteads & Herbals: Resources for Learning and Using Nature’s Gifts by N.A. Broadley
- Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use