So you want to start prepping, but you’re at a loss. The whole notion can seem overwhelming, so where do you even start? Do you just go buy 100 lbs. of rice from Costco and call it a day? (No, but 100 lbs. of rice from Costco is a fantastic idea.) Here are a few simple steps to help you on your journey:
STEP ONE: Secure a space
This depends how intense you want to get with your preparedness. Do you just want enough to ride out a gnarly power outage or are you planning on a full-on zombie apocalypse? The size of your space should reflect that. Currently, our spare bedroom is being transformed into what I dubbed “My Apocalypse Closet.” It will hold our extra food, water, and other supplies we won’t need on a day to day basis. It’ll also keep the rest of the house from suffering the burden of a prepper in residence. If you want to start small, clean out a cupboard in your kitchen or a shelf in your closet. Or add a series of storage containers under your bed. Be creative with your storage ideas, just make sure you can get to them quickly in an emergency.
STEP TWO: Food
FEMA recommends you have at least three days’ worth of food should an emergency occur. I recommend that food be easily transportable and nonperishable. It should also be edible right out of their container. If you have to cook it first but have no access to a heat source, you’re screwed. I also recommend you have way more than three days’ worth. Food prices are on the rise and you may be strapped for cash, but there are ways to squeeze an emergency cache out of most budgets.
Option one: The slow and steady
Whenever you grocery shop, leave enough money to pick out one large can of soup (generic store brand). If you do this five or ten times, you’ll have a week or so of emergency food. Many normal grocery stores have that one aisle that has institutional sized gallons of mayo and other things — see if they have soup. Or if there’s a sale for three cans for two bucks, pick three of the ones you’ll actually eat and tuck them away.
Option two: The bulk store
I cannot recommend this highly enough: get a Costco membership. They run about $55 a year and are worth every goddamn penny. If that’s a bit steep, you can always go in with someone. My mom and I actually split one and each have a card (technically you’re supposed to share an address but if you bat your eyes and look related they might let it slide). My aunt has a Sam’s Club card as well so occasionally we’ll have days where we all go together and hit up both. Because the family that bulk shops together stays together? Maybe the affinity for bulk foods runs in the family. Bulk food and flea markets… yeah. There are a few things at Sam’s I prefer but ethically I shop Costco because they pay their workers like humans, not walking meat suits that stack boxes.
Now once you’re there don’t get bogged down by the fancy cheeses and meats, tasty as they are. Instead, go to the bulk staples. You can get 25 lbs. of rice for about ten dollars depending on the variety. TWENTY FIVE POUNDS. TEN BUCKS. And flour? You can get it for even less than that. One productive trip pays for the subscription! If you have a friend who wants to buy some bulk supplies you can share a ride and some food. A note though: they will scan the store card before they begin scanning the food, and most credit cards are not accepted there, though debit cards are. If possible, I recommend bringing cash. And also, eat every free sample you can fit into your face. FREE LUNCH.
Option Three: The interwebs
Not everyone lives near a bulk food store. Also, for my readers who use public transportation and would struggle with 50 lbs. of rice on the train, I’m thinking of you!
This is a bulk foods site I adore. I buy my vegan soup bases and vegetable bullion there and I plan on buying as much as I can from them in the future. My fiancé recently began trucking and to save money, I’ll be dry packing him homemade soup mug mixes. Most of the ingredients will be coming from that site. It’s mostly raw ingredients (soup bases, nuts, grains, pastas, dehydrated veggies, etc.) but these things are lighter than canned varieties and cost less to ship. They’re also fabulous when it comes to storage. Each bag is sealed and comes with information regarding the product, which is also really helpful. Also, it’s pretty fairly priced. Bullion for broths cost me a fraction on that site of what they’d run at a normal grocery store. AND THEY TASTE BETTER. Get on that.
A quick Google search revealed other bulk sites, but those remain untested by me so use your best judgment. *A side note: for those who are looking to get truly serious about food storage, the LDS church has an online food storage calculator. Part of their religion teaches the importance of putting food away, and if you live near one that has a cannery you can also buy affordable canning supplies. They say 50 lbs of rice per person per year is sufficient, and you can hit that for 20 bucks! I’m also an atheist, so this isn’t an endorsement of their religion, just their delicious canned goods and online calculator* *Double side note: Costco pays me nothing to shill for them here. Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.*
There will be an entire article (or maybe a few) regarding food. This was just a primer.
STEP THREE: Water
You’ll need enough water to last you at least three days. The Mayo clinic’s surprisingly roundabout article regarding it says you should drink between 9 and 13 cups of water per day. To be safe (and account for washing/sanitation) you should round up to a gallon, so you’ll need a bare minimum of three gallons per person. I also recommend having an alternative method of storing much more than that. The BOB, which basically converts your bathtub into a giant water bottle, is a cheap and easy way to achieve this. The only downside is you’ll need to know in advance if you need the water. But if you’re short on space and have a budget to stick to, keeping one of these in your cupboard doesn’t hurt. If you’re wanting to invest in water filtration bottles, water treatment capsules, etc, the same site that sells the BOB carries them. And in a pinch, you can purify drinking water with bleach. I keep a small dollar store jug of it tucked away. I’ll have a whole article about water, but this is just a little bit to help you get started.
STEP FOUR: Medical, first aid, and LADY SUPPLIES
ALWAYS have at least a teeny tiny first aid kit. I cannot tell you how many times I have cut myself and had nothing but toilet paper to stop the bleeding.
Most of my first aid supplies come from store endcaps and the dollar store. The Mayo Clinic has a good list for a homemade first aid kit. The only addition I would make would be a bandana. You can use those for anything.
And I’m personally super guilty of this: I always run out of pads when I need them most. We’ll discuss lady parts hygiene in another article but for an emergency, at least one package of disposable pads is highly useful (Have you not seen Orange is the New Black?).
These are the basics of supplies to keep in your emergency nook. Hopefully it seems a little less overwhelming with a list and a game plan!