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The concept of prepping — the term used to describe preparing for some kind of disastrous life event — has become far more popular lately. It used to be somewhat of a derogatory term, conjuring up images of tinfoil hats and conspiracy theories for some folks. More and more, however, people are finding themselves in need of a self-sufficiency “safety net” when facing pandemics, catastrophic inflation, record gas prices and more. Suddenly, beginning prepping doesn’t sound so crazy after all, does it?
Maybe you have no idea what to do first. You might be unsure of how to start prepping: what do you buy, or where to buy it? With the prices of everything rising so quickly, you must spend your money wisely and get the biggest benefit possible.
So, before you run to your local supermarket for a 50-lb. bag of flour or beans, read on.
Some folks new to the prepping world tend to see it as a checklist of actions that must be taken. Many beginner preppers fall for the sites that tell them to “buy these things, store them and wait for disaster.” Instead, you should think of prepping as a mindset change first, and action later.
Let’s talk about what becoming a prepper means in practice.
First Step: Mindset of Prepping
Before you go out and start buying things, stop and ask yourself the following questions:
- Where do you live, and what does that mean for your needs?
- What are you preparing for?
- Who is in your household?
- When is a disaster most likely?
- How far are you from your goal?
- Will you make the necessary lifestyle changes?
Each of these questions will get help you get started by making you thinking about the types of things you need to buy, trade for or make.
Where you live can determine the types of weather gear you may need, and ties into what you need to have on hand. Here in Montana, our gear is different than those who live in southern Texas or Florida, and those places are different than New Jersey or Michigan.
Next, think about what kind of situation you’re preparing for, because that’s going to also inform what you’re buying. If you’re in the middle of Portland and you’re worried about political unrest, looting or violent protests, you’re probably going to buy different things than someone who is planning for their next hurricane season. If you’re simply planning for a job loss or other financial disaster, that’s also going to change how you prep.
Figure out what kinds of things you may need to deal with, and what kind of supplies you’ll need to do it. Don’t just think about natural or man-made threats, either — think aftermath, too.
Understanding the kind of event you’re looking at could also change how you store the things you buy like your prepper food. Living in a coastal or perennially wet state means you’ll need to plan for things like rust and maybe salty sea air. If you live in a state where wild fluctuations in temperature happen from one season to another, where you keep your supplies in one season may not work in another. Consider these things when developing a prepper storage room.
Next, you’ll need to think about how many people you’ll be taking care of. There is much debate on this point; some believe that they’re responsible for the people in their household and no one else. Others believe that they should have enough to also care for anyone who comes asking for help. Whichever camp you’re in, you’ll need to decide now.
You’ll also need to consider any specific needs of your household members. Ongoing medical issues will need supplies, and you may need things that you won’t personally use but someone in your home might. When thinking about how to start prepping for medical emergencies, consider what things your family uses now and begin with those items.
Now, let’s talk timing. While it’s true that a disaster can occur at any time, if your focus is natural events then your locale often dictates when those are most likely to happen. If you’re in Florida, maybe that’s hurricane season. If you’re in Wisconsin or North Dakota, it’s winter, when cold can reach -40 degrees below zero. You can plan your acquisitions so that you’re buying in the offseason when things are cheaper. The last position you want to be in is buying critical items after they’ve become critical. (Try buying a generator during a power outage; you’ll see what I mean. Likewise, don’t begin prepping for winter when the temps drop below freezing.)
Willpower also comes into play. Are you willing to ensure that you are physically, mentally and emotionally fit? Can you do without Netflix if it means having supplies? Can you stick to a budget to ensure the means to buy supplies? These are questions only you can answer, but they are fundamental to beginning prepping.
Finally, you need to know what your actual goal is and how far you are from it. Take stock of what you have first; make lists of each category: food, water, medical supplies, equipment, etc. Decide what you need based on the above criteria and plan your purchases.
You might want to run down to your nearest supermarket and sporting goods store and start filling your cart but don’t. Prepping is a deliberate thing, and every purchase, no matter how critical, requires well-thought-out action.
Unless you have unlimited disposable income — and let’s face it, most people don’t — you won’t get everything you need in a week or even a month. Look for deals. Shop sales, use coupons where appropriate and look at online sources. This will help you get the most for your money.
If the thought of waiting for months to have a year’s worth of food on hand makes you highly uncomfortable, there are options. You can go to a bulk distributor, such as Azure Standard, and get a few 50-lb. bags of bean/soup mix and bouillon, and a few five-gallon buckets, mylar bags and oxygen absorbers to store it indefinitely. It’ll cost about $400 total for a year’s worth depending on your family size, and it certainly won’t be the most gourmet or even varied thing you’ve ever eaten, but it’ll be enough to keep you alive for a while if you have nothing else.
Keep It to Yourself
One thing you don’t want to do is tell people you’re starting to collect food and supplies — even if you plan to help others outside your home. You’ll have a plethora of friends and extended family telling you that when something happens, they’ll “just come to your house,” effectively dodging any responsibility they may have for their own families. That’s not the situation you want as a beginner prepper — or even if you’ve been in the survival community for years.
Prepping isn’t as simple as buying a lot of canned goods, but with the right mindset, it can provide peace of mind for you and your family. If you’re going to do it, do it right. You’ll be glad you did.
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