I prep because I’m a former farm girl who grew up with a year’s worth of food sitting in the cellar at any given time and because I’ve had to start over several times with little more than the clothes on my back. Once you’ve spent some time shivering without enough blankets or skipping meals because there’s no food, you do everything you can to prevent that in the future.
My kids, like many of this latest generation, have never experienced lengthy power outages, financial collapse, war, or being stranded at home for days on end because of the weather. They’d roll their eyes and say “Mom’s getting ready for Armageddon again” every time I’d toss a pound of beans in the grocery cart or check something else off my survival food list. “Don’t eat the Chunky soup. Mom’s saving it for the end of the world.”
Well, our TEOTWAKI situation came when I lost my job. As the only wage earner, we had no income whatsoever until I found work. Taking inventory that first day, we discovered that we had enough supplies on hand to get us through several months, so our savings could be reserved for paying the bills. That doesn’t mean it was easy. We still had to ration everything, and we weren’t as prepared as I’d thought.
- Buy more dish soap. Yes, I could’ve grated the bars of Ivory that I have in storage or mixed up a batch of Borax and washing soda, but I like using dish soap on my dishes. When you’re home all day, you use a lot more dishes, so the dish soap is going to go fast.
- There is no such thing as too much toilet paper. Again, when you’re home an additional 45-60 hours a week, you’re going to use more than you’d expected. Double the amount you thought you’d need, and then buy as much more as you can.
- If you plan to bake bread, you’re going to use 4-6 cups of flour for each batch. That 50 pounds that you carefully packaged in mouse and bug-proof containers isn’t going to go very far.
- You’ll also need a lot of powdered eggs.
- Make sure you’ve rotated your yeast. Don’t wait until you’re in dire straits to try making bread and tortillas. You’ll have a lot of fun laughing at the end result, but you’ll waste your supplies. If you’re getting your recipes off the Internet, carefully read the reviews that follow.
- The cold-weather sleeping bags and fleece and wool blankets come in handy when you turn the heat down to lower your utility costs. Socks, slippers, and baggy sweatshirts become the norm 24 hours a day (Remember, layering your clothes really does keep you warmer). Those frilly sheers look lovely on the windows, but I really should’ve bought the thermal curtains when they were on sale.
- If you’re a regular coffee drinker, buy more. You’re stressing out about finding a job, so you’re going to drink more. And if you’re drinking more coffee, you’re also using more of what goes in it, whether it’s creamer, sugar, or flavorings. I thought we had plenty of powdered creamer set aside, but it went quickly, and I didn’t want to use the powdered milk, because it was needed for cooking.
- Buy more powdered milk. I thought we had a decent amount, because the kids won’t drink it. I didn’t stop to consider just how much of that powder is needed to mix enough milk for baking and cooking.
- Buy more canned vegetables and meats. Once the real meat is gone, you’ll be more dependent on vegetables to add flavor to your meals, and you don’t realize just how many you use until they’re no longer available. TVP is a great substitute…once in a while. While not big meat-eaters, we’re also not vegan, and canned meats can add flavor to a wide variety of dishes.
- Stock up on canned and dehydrated potatoes. They’ve always been a comfort food for us, and we didn’t have enough. Canned potatoes taste “tinny” and dehydrated ones never rehydrate fully. Instant mashed potatoes don’t taste real. Deal with it. The only other option is to live without potatoes.
- Stock up on a variety of sweets. Hard candies and freeze-dried fruits won’t cut it. You need Jell-O and canned fruit, instant pudding, chocolate chips, and M & M’s. A couple containers of Cool Whip in the freezer is a help. Molasses and cocoa powder store well. We could live without fresh meat, eggs, milk, and pre-sliced bread, but when the chips are down, we want dessert.
- Salt. We haven’t used added salt in decades. The ex had high blood pressure and the daughter has potential kidney problems. We always got enough from the processed foods we ate regularly. When you start cooking all your meals from scratch, the only salt you’re going to get is from the occasional bouillon or packaged gravy mix. We were eating well-balanced meals, but I started feeling shaky and sick. Out of liquid Gatorade and unwilling to open the canister of powder, I licked a spoonful of salt. Nasty, but it did the trick. Don’t underestimate your body’s need for salt.
- Stock up on garbage bags and bags for cleaning up after the dog. We live in a community that has mandatory immediate dog poop duty. When you’re home all day long, the dog wants out more often, just because he can. You’ll also be doing more housework and clearing out all that “Why did I keep this” junk. Your garbage men might learn to hate you, but you’ll only hate yourself if you run out of garbage bags.
- Don’t forget dog food. We generally have at least 50 pounds of dry food, but I wish I’d bought a couple cases of canned food. It has a good shelf-life, and it would’ve lowered my stress levels. He’s big, he’s old, and he’d never understand if I tried to tell him to go on a diet.
- Fill your gas tank. We’re all advised to keep the tank full for any emergency, and the inability to buy more is about as urgent as it gets. You don’t want to head to an interview or, God forbid, the ER, and realize the gas gauge is on “E.”
- Follow Grandma’s advice and always have a little black dress on hand (for you guys, that would translate into a button-down shirt and tie, preferably with dress slacks). Don’t forget nylons and heels. You really don’t want to show up for a job interview dressed in blue jeans, work boots, and a t-shirt, and you don’t want to call the electric company and tell them you can’t pay your bill because you spent that money on a new wardrobe.
- Buy several cookbooks. Not the fancy ones using bay scallops, escargot, and spun sugar, but the ones published by your local church, a good old Betty Crocker, or better yet – one from the Depression or war years. You may not need to know how to make a squirrel casserole for 12 people, but knowing how to bake cakes with nothing but flour, water, and a magic wand is a good skill to learn. Be willing to experiment with new dishes and adapt the recipes to the foods you have on hand. My daughter’s a food major, so we made good use of the African and Indian cookbooks she’d collected. They use a lot of lentils, rice, split peas, and root vegetables, all of which we had. Now is not the time to follow a traditional American meal plan.
- After all that: Take time to relax. Keep to your old schedule. If you’re used to going to bed early and getting up in the wee hours, keep doing it. Renew your acquaintance with old hobbies. Finish reading that book that’s gathering dust on your nightstand. Call an old friend. Bake cookies with the kids like you did when they were little. Make sure you argue over who gets to lick the spoon. Dance in the rain. Volunteer at the local soup kitchen to remind yourself that you still have a good life. And always remember – “This too shall pass.”
Great job of sharing SingleMom!
I learned a few things and will be adjusting some of my supplies.
Thank You! :-D
Awesomeness, I felt like I was on a journey reading this article. Gave some things to reconsider or at least re-prioritize.
Boy, that’s a lot of good advice in a short piece. It’s obvious that you’ve been there and done that. The farm raising really shows. Thanks for sharing.
Great post, singlemom – very good advice :)
At the risk of sounding dumb, I’d add some of the extra large size zip bags and a big waterproof tote of some sort for those “interview clothes”, especially if there is the possibility of becoming “very mobile” as a result of unemployment, where they might have to live in a vehicle trunk, tent etc.
I am no expert on women’s clothing, but from past experience, for guys, at least, wool blazers and tweed sportcoats and silk neckties (available at just about every consignment and charity thrift store around) don’t wrinkle like business suits do. They can hide the wrinkles in the shirt. Stash a few wooden hangers as well. Assuming good weather, you can “air the stuff out” the day before.
Great report on making do. Another suggestion is to get a good wild game cookbook. You may not use it much now, but if things are tough it will come in handy. When I was growing up and things got tough, mom would make a meal from anything we boys could bring home. Also remember that you can substitute small game in most of your regular recipes. Now to go look at my stores and see what I need to up quantities on.
So well written for the benefit of all. This site always amazes me (wifey) with not only the wisdom that is freely shared, but how it’s earned (not just learned) by each of us. Although we’re both retired, MrWE2 continues to work part-time when God gives him the work, so he can put back into our lives. Fortunately he’s a self-employed carpenter and doesn’t need really fancy clothes, but we just had to buy him some additional carpenter jeans because his work is very rough on his clothing. Also, being self-employed is both good and not so good…you have to generate your own work. God’s been so very good to us and I can see He’s been good to your family also singlemom :-) I’m assuming you have a new job and praying it’s the best one you’ve ever had!
You brought back memories of my childhood. When my parents were struggling to pay the bills and fed us. My dad(stepdad) taught me how to skin a grey squirrel. That is what we ate for Thanksgiving one year as they could not afford the price of a Turkey back in 1960’s(about 9 cents a pound).
It is that memory what drives me to this day, when you have gone hungry you never forget.
I hope you have found a new position so you and your family are back on an even setting.
Your reminder that one can never let their guard down. Life can jump up and bite us in the backside when we least expect it. It is a great article.
This is so good!
Thank you, Everybody! Yes, I have a new job, and I love it! I’ve cried myself to sleep in pain on more than a few nights, because it’s a lot more manual labor than I’ve had since I was in my teens, but for the first time in many years I’m happy at work and relaxed when I get back home. Realistically, I’m not sure how many years I can do this, but I have to echo Mrs. WE2 and say that we’ve been blessed. I truly believe I’m where I need to be right now.
I also want to stress the “buy more meat” part again, because that (and the lack of desserts!) are what affected us the most. I’d think it would be a whole lot worse for the families that are used to eating meat on a daily basis. Substitutions only work to a certain extent. As I rebuild our stores, a large variety of meat products (particularly beef) is going to be at the top of the list.
Meat…that’s one reason I learned the recipe to make “meatless sausage”. I’ve made it several times just to keep in practice and to remind me to set back plenty of oatmeal, powdered eggs and spices.
thank you for article, very well written and makes good points to learn from,