I went shopping on Saturday. I went to three grocery stores and one drug store type place, as well as the fabric shop. I spent about £400. Yes, I am one of those. But I am not a #panicbuyer. And there was not a single loo roll among my purchases. You see, I am a #prepper. I have been to varying degrees all of my life. But for the first time ever, I feel content with my stock after this shop.
Let me begin with the difference between a #prepper and #panicbuyer.
A panic buyer has no idea what they are doing or why. They see something about toilet paper trending on Twitter and the rush out to hoard that. While looking right past more sensible purchases like canned goods, rice, and pasta.
A #prepper is a thoughtful lifestyle approach. A prepper knows which foods his or her family generally consume. She will have an idea of how long quantities will last, including when and how to ration them. She will certainly know a variety of recipes for cooking them all. He will know what various expiration dates mean like best before, use by, and sell-by. She will have a long term plan for what to do when her stock runs low like foraging and grow your own. He will have a system in place for long term storage and stock rotation. And be aware of the types of disasters most likely to occur in her area and the impacts of each of those. And much, much more.
How did I become a #prepper?
I grew up one. I was raised by my great-grandmother, a woman who had steered her family through the Great Depression. Most of those who lived through that experience made certain that they kept a well-stocked cupboard.
And just as importantly that they knew how to grow their own. My Nanny was no exception. Though she was more practical than our neighbor a couple of houses over. Mrs. McCall was a widow in her eighties when I was a little girl. Nanny would loan me out to help her pick crab apples off the ground since she could not bend down anymore.
If you don’t know what a crab apple is, it is a tiny little apple that is hard and bitter. Not much good for eating. But after picking them, we would sit on the porch while Mrs. McCall told me stories of the Great Depression and peeled and cut those apples. She would add sugar and cinnamon and boil them. She then canned them as apple butter.
Mrs. McCall was the only house in our neighborhood with a cellar. It was lined with shelves of canned goods. Not just that apple butter but corn, green beans, tomatoes, peaches, and more. Hundreds and hundreds of Mason jars organized by type and labeled with dates.
The saddest thing was when this old woman died and her heirs, people who had never even come to visit her, just threw it all away, breaking most of those jars. She would have been so sad and angry at that waste. Mind you some of those jars were more than twenty years old…and not edible.
So, when I had my family, it was only natural that I made certain that there was always a bit ‘extra’ in the cupboards. It was what a good parent did. And yes, once the term #prepper came in vogue, I was always a bit jealous, wished that I could do more. But single mothers in big cities rarely have the wherewithal to prep properly.
When we moved into @HomeCrazzyHome, I had both the space and means to do more. Even before Saturday, I had about a four to six weeks supply. And yes, Alan did take the piss about it. Even a tiny bit when I came back on Saturday, but for the first time I think he saw the value of self-sufficiency in an emergency.
So why do I #Prep?
Prepping is not just about huge natural disasters like you see in sci-fi movies. Prepping in those cases will be of limited value, only in the areas not directly impacted by the disaster and for a limited time. No one can realistically prep for a lifetime. You’d need bug-out plans, a safe house, and grow-your-own strategies for that kind of meltdown.
This type of prepping is more geared to pandemics such as Covid-19 and small localized disasters such as flooding. A few weeks or months supply of non-perishable food stocks and a couple of weeks of more perishable things will allow your family to manage the situation without serious disruption.
That is especially important with @PanKwake as she is autistic and like many others on the spectrum has strong food preferences. Though even she with her fascination with the zombie apocalypse knows that if The Shit Hits the Fan (TSHF) she won’t be able to be such a picky eater if she wants to survive. Yes, we have had those kinds of talks in this @HomeCrazzyHome.
But when I was a single mother there was another good reason to prep – job insecurity. A well-stocked cupboard means that you have a couple of weeks, maybe a month or more, to get your shit together before you have to apply for welfare or go to food banks. Sometimes that is all you need to get back on your feet.
Yes, I think everyone should be a #prepper. To the degree that finances and space will allow.
So what are some of the specifics? How do I begin to #prep?
Well, hopefully, you have not waited until now to begin. That £400 may seem extreme and yes, I got loads of stares and one nasty comment, but the truth was that it was less than twice my normal monthly shop.
The difference was that usually, I have it all delivered, but due to the #coronavirus scare, the shop was booked solid for almost a week. So, I ended up pushing an overstuffed buggy and pulling a shopping trolley. But it is done…and I can rest easy knowing that me, mine, and our friends are good come what may.
But if you are starting out, the first step is – think about what your family usually eats. What of that can you store and for how long?
@PanKwake, as I said, has a very limited diet. And most of it contains fresh dairy. But there are a few things like baked beans, spaghetti, and her pilau rice. Of course, I did buy loads of the other stuff as well, but I have to be more mindful of expiration dates for items like cheese, sour cream, and eggs.
For Alan and I, it is much easier. Dried beans, rice, and pasta can last for years when stored in air-tight glass jars, which I save. Like I said, a #prepper knows how to cook. I have half a dozen different ways I can make those things into nutritious, tasty meals like chili, minestrone soup, and lentil stew. I have a stock of dried herbs as well as some growing fresh in my garden.
If you are used to ready meals and take away, now might be a bit late to get started. Thankfully you have YouTube and the internet with plenty of wonderful recipes and ideas out there.
The other thing to consider is what type of disaster are you preparing for. The coronavirus is actually a surprisingly easy one. Why would I say that? Because it is highly unlikely that power, gas, or water supplies will be affected by it. Even the banks and other financial institutions are taking precautionary measures to ensure that financial stability is somewhat maintained.
Living in the UK, especially a small city like Swansea, we have far fewer natural disasters to worry about than when I lived in Texas or California with hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. But in some ways that lulls people into a false sense of security. Here people trust and believe that the government will save them – in a way that most Americans just don’t.
You need to consider too what facilities you have for storing your supplies. Obviously, in a place like @HomeCrazzyHome, I have a pantry right off my kitchen which is the size of a walk-in closet. It is dry and a bit cold, perfect for storing flour, sugar, and pasta as well as the things I use every day.
But I also have a huge pantry in the basement, though it can get damp, it is great for canned goods. If it did not have my seasonal decorations and other storage, that room could handle a one to two year supply. But honestly, that is not my long term #prep plans.
I also have a deep freeze and another fridge in the basement. I planned the deep freeze because so many of @PanKwake’s preferred foods were frozen like ice cream, pizza, and waffles. The fridge just sort of happened. When Alan rented the other house, they had their own so we brought it over here. And honestly, now that we have it I can’t imagine how we survived without it. It makes our everyday stockpiling of her whipped cream, sour cream, and cheeses so much easier. Not to mention big events like Thanksgiving and the wedding.
But even if you live in a dinky two-bedroom flat in north London or an apartment in Los Angeles, you would be surprised at how much space you can MAKE. Stacking cans and organizing your kitchen to make the most of the space you do have is the first step. But beyond that, don’t waste that empty space under beds. Cardboard boxes of canned goods can easily slide under a bed.
Ultimately, though, you also need to have long-term plans for those what-ifs. It is not just those astroids or supervolcanoes that we need to be concerned about, folks. Covid-19 is nothing compared to some bugs out there. Add to that, global warming, financial, and political instability. We need to understand that things are more precarious than we realize.
It does not even have to be sci-fi worthy to be serious. The Great Depression lasted a decade. What would you do if something like the market crash of 1929 happened now? Do you have friends or family that you could band together with to survive? Do you have any idea how to grow your own food? What about a place to live? What would be your priorities? Would you want to remain where you are? If not, where would you go? How would you get there?
We may live in a relatively stable modern Western world, but we need to realize that the difference between those refuges of war, politics, and economics is more of an illusion that we want to admit. And that is a hard one, folks. Much harder than this virus. Global warming is a bigger threat than this virus. In the next fifty years, we as a species are going to be forced to change and adapt. What are your plans for that?
Mine? I’m not a big bug-out fan. Though the idea of an isolated existence in the woods appeals to me, I know that 1) neither Alan nor @PanKwake feel the same and 2) cities, especially small ones are surprisingly more viable and environmentally feasible than that place in the country.
So, our plans are 1) as soon as he can without a penalty Alan is paying off the house 2) I already have begun experimenting with grow-your-own, and 3) we have a strong network of friends within walking distance because not only is there safety in numbers but it is more efficient use of resources all around. Basically, as with my other #prepping, we are on the right track, we just need to fine-tune it a bit.
So what do I do now? How do I go about this?
Okay, after you have thought about:
- What your family usually eats
- What facilities you have for storing your supplies
- And what you already have in your cupboards
Then, make a REALISTIC shopping list. Forget toilet paper. It is a luxury item that much of the world lives without. And for a situation like this one where you are unlikely to lose power, water, or gas, you have other options. But make certain that you do include:
- Beans – dried, canned, or a combination of both. As many varieties as your family will eat. This is a good source of both calories and protein when combined with…
- Rice – Whatever type you prefer or a couple of varieties. Buy in bulk if you can. Then package in old glass jars for long term storage.
- Dried pasta – same rules apply here as with rice.
- Canned meats – Like tuna, salmon, or even ham.
- Other canned goods – especially tomatoes which can be combined with pasta or beans to make wonderful meals. But for variety also include corn, peas, and other vegetables.
- Peanut butter – Packed with calories and protein and especially good for your kids.
- Flour – For making bread, though you may have to get creative longer term.
- Sugar – calories and flavoring, especially with children.
- Salt – a must.
Now add to those sparingly the following non-perishable items:
- Butter or margarine
- Bread – can be frozen for a short term supply of a few weeks if you have the freezer space.
- Fresh meats – can be frozen
- Fruits and vegetables – just be responsible about how long and how much you can realistically store. Onions can last for a month or more, potatoes and carrots a couple of weeks, but most other things need to be used within a few days.
- Cookies or candy – high source of calories and a good treat for the kids of all ages if things get rough.
- Medications – they won’t cure it, but you might as well be as comfortable as you can be.
Now if your budget can afford it, a few luxury items:
- Books – a good time to catch up on that reading you have been promising yourself. Of course, you can just go with ebooks, and please consider indie writers when making your choice.
- Video games – now is a great time to buy that new game your kid has been bugging you about, especially if schools close early. You almost might want to consider networking their gaming system if you have not already.
- And of course, if you have extra money and can find it…now is the time to go for that toilet paper/loo roll.
So, is all this really necessary?
Honestly, probably not. Covid-19 is mild as disasters go. But if it can get a few people thinking more, not #panicbuying, but seriously considering the long term state of this planet and the societies in which we live then it will have been worth it. Consider this one of those dry-runs or fire drills you had at school. But take it with the gravitas it deserves, folks.
And for the oldies like me…
Let’s be careful out there.
And kind. If the world is coming to an end, being nasty and hateful won’t get you as far as you think. I want to end with a story that I heard from my Nanny and her next-door neighbor, Miss Ethel. I call it Eggs, Onions, and Farts.
The winter after Miss Ethel’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack she came around a lot more. She and Nanny would sit around the kitchen table after dinner drinking instant coffee. (Oh, how could I possibly forget! Add that to your luxury list, maybe your essentials.) They would talk about the ‘good ole’ days.’ It was ironic as a child to hear these sixty-year-old women talking about the Great Depression in those terms.
But one of my favorite stories was the winter that they feed their families on nothing but fried potatoes, onions, and eggs. You see one of them had a small vegetable patch outback and in the deep South, you could manage to grow potatoes and onions all year round. The other kept hens and had eggs. By sharing what they had with one another, they were able to provide a more nutritious meal for their families than either could have alone.
Oh, where did the farts come into the story? Because as they sat talking each of these women would just lift a butt cheek from the horrid yellow-green plastic kitchen chairs and let one go. Never did either of them say ‘excuse me’ or anything else. They did not need to, they had shared so much that it was unnecessary to apologize for something that was just natural.
When The Shit Hits the Fan, that’s what we all need. Someone that we can share the laughter and tears with, someone that will give us a couple of eggs, while we offer them a tater and onion. That’s how we truly get by in this world, folks. With kindness, compassion, and sharing the bad alongside the good.