This article was originally published in November of 2014, but I felt led to re-publish in order to stress the benefits of preparedness. Preparedness isn’t just for “zombie apocalypse” type of situations, but can help us to weather personal basic emergencies well too.
Greetings, friends! Later in the week I’ll have another post on organization, but today I wanted to share a post that my new friend Lance wrote for us. As regular readers know, I’m a huge believer in preparedness. Lance is too: he and his wife not only have a six month emergency fund, but a six month food storage supply as well. Lance was generous enough to share with The Frugal Farmer readers today about the hows and whys of his stellar food storage system. Welcome, Lance! Thanks to Laurie for the invitation to write on The Frugal Farmer. What a cool opportunity after leaving a short comment the other day on one of her articles. That turned in to several wonderful e-mails and the opportunity to share a little about us and how we prepare for the future. I know my wife has dreamed of us sharing pictures of our garage and basement with people all across the world, sorry honey 🙂 . I really should have cleaned things up first!
Be Prepared Be prepared isn’t just something I said in scouts growing up, it was a way of life. Most of us think of being prepared as having money for an emergency for a medical situation or whenthe car breaks down. That is fantastic and absolutely necessary.
My family also stores up food for the long-term. What is long-term is six months at the moment; at least that is my guess, luckily haven’t had to test it out. This is the way I was raised (Mormon) and I was raised to be prepared for life: education, finances, food, physical health, gardening, emergency preparedness and more. You Store Up How Much Food? What the…? I know there is a general negative connotation for people that save up large amounts of food. “They must be in a cult.” “You are wasting food.” “You must be really smart and good looking.” Okay maybe not that last one, but let’s just start spreading that around because it’s totally true ;-). To be honest when we were storing up food for the long-term when I was a kid, my general thought was it was for a type of “end of the world scenario.” But that was a misperception and in reality church leaders have come out during the recent downturn in the economy and said that the reason to have food on hand was for emergencies such as losing a job or a sudden drop in income. We weren’t supposed to be preparing for the end…we were supposed to be preparing for life, which has constant ups and downs.
It Won’t Happen to Me When there is a natural disaster, guess what happens to the local stores: they get wiped out immediately of their food and water. That is if you can even reach the stores during a disaster. In the last decade where I live there was a snowstorm that shut down the main road. People had to be pulled out of cars stuck on the highway and teenagers and children were cut off and home alone after school while some parents were gone to work. A lot of families were separated and couldn’t get home until the next day. We’ve had a fire on two mountains around us that forced evacuations of part of the city. One fire was started by lighting and the other was started by the National Guard doing training drills (whoops!). What would you do if you had to suddenly evacuate your home? Where would you go? What would you do? Do you have an emergency family plan? Do you have cash on hand for immediate expenses if the power goes down and you can’t use a card? The fire looked pretty bad but it was about 7 miles away and we didn’t have to evacuate. We actually went to our neighborhood pool and enjoyed the day and watched the fire and smoke. No panic. This time. Just a few weeks ago there was a break-in at the city water supply and just to be safe the city recommended that people not use their water for 24 hours until test results came back. No big deal to us because we have months of water on hand, but guess what, every single grocery store in our city, the next city over, and the city next to that got completely wiped out of their water supply. That was for just a 24-hour scare. The impact was felt all over the place because people freaked out! That was the reaction in a place where we are taught from birth to be prepared, what would happen in your city? The water turned out to be fine after testing…but just think how much you use water and if it suddenly was unavailable. You can’t shower, wash dishes, drink (water that is 🙂 ), use it to cook, brush your teeth, or wash your hands…nothing. I forgot on brushing my teeth and had to chuck my toothbrush just in case…ugh and it was fairly new.
Being Prepared Gives You Peace of Mind
Do you sleep better when your finances are in place? Me too. I also sleep better knowing I have back up water, food, and ways to cook if the power is gone as well. When you are going through an emergency situation you just don’t think clearly sometimes. You are so frantic that you can’t remember all that needs to be done…plus how do you know when a disaster will happen? You need to be prepared before you have a disaster… it is too late once it happens.
My Food Supply
So here is what a section of our basement looks like. We picked up all the shelves thanks to my wife’s business shutting down an office to consolidate two locations in to one. They had tons of leftover office furniture that they told employees to take what we wanted because they didn’t want to deal with it. We took all the shelves for free… my favorite price! Notice that the food in our storage isn’t weird, strange, and dried up stuff. It is actual real food. We buy food that we normally eat, but twice a year we just buy a lot more of it than usual. It’s not that much more money, it is an extra $150 for each of the two big shopping trips. (Our grocery bill is really low each month – maybe $150 a month for three of us – my wife is a master at price matching and we only buy milk and produce, fruit, and veggies). We just rotate out the food so that nothing expires, nothing ticks us off more than wasting money, so we make sure to use food before it expires and we have great tasting normal meals. My wife is a fantastic cook and makes it impossible for me to stay in shape…so I have to run 3 miles a day. I guess I could cut down on portion sizes but it’s just so good! Long-term storage doesn’t mean horrible food. I had MRE’s in scouts. Don’t know what an MRE is? Wow, you are lucky. They are “Meals Ready to Eat” and are used in the military that have a shelf-life of forever basically (and taste like it). We had to eat them on occasion in scouts to teach us a “life lesson.” The lesson I learned is I don’t like MRE’s and don’t want my life to depend on them! You can buy them in weekly, monthly, yearly supplies. I guess some of them taste better now, but to me I’d rather eat dirt and worms. I think the MRE company is going to cancel their sponsorship with me after this article. We also store a lot of bags of flour, sugar, and other food that can be used so my wife can make bread and other things from scratch. She also has hard wheat in metal containers that last forever (or around 30 years) and can be ground up to make flour. We have a grinder that works by electricity or if that is out we can grind it by hand crank…let’s hope the power stays on. We’ve tried ground up wheat before and it is not my favorite, just a little grainy, but it will do in an emergency. My wife knows how to make a bunch of things from scratch…not just from things bought in a box with a recipe at the store. Making food from scratch is an important skill to learn and is being lost over the years. Another must have for food storage…a manual can-opener. If you have an electric can opener and the power is out…good luck opening all those cans.
When my grandpa moved out of his house in to a retirement center he was clearing things out and asked if we wanted his freezer. I do love free stuff and we just happened to have bought our current home at the time, so we had room inside the garage for the freezer. My uncle is a doctor and a rancher on the side so we get free meat from his farm (which really helps with the food budget) and then we buy chicken in bulk along with several other items. My wife makes jam and we have rows of that along with butter, bread, cheese and whatever else is hidden away in there….oh yeah, and lots of ice cream! Add all this up and I think we’d do really well if our economic situation changed drastically. We are prepared so if I lose my job I can worry about finding a job and not where our next meal will come from. We don’t have to use our emergency money on food, we already have plenty. Things are hard enough when you lose a job or income emotionally, why add more to the worry list? In my neighborhood we’ve had three families lose jobs in the last two months. Not one of them needed help or asked for help because they had food and money on hand. All of them ended up finding work rather quickly, but in talking with them they all mentioned that they were grateful they had prepared. Two of them knew their jobs were going away and the other got totally blindsided. You just don’t know.
We have multiple ways that we store water. The most common thing is to have these large 55-gallon water barrels like the ones shown here. They are full of fresh water with a tiny amount of bleach to help keep it pure. I keep the water covered with a tarp and dark so that the barrels aren’t exposed to the sun. It is recommended to rotate the water every six-months but just last summer I figured I finally better switch it out after four years and decided to test out the water and guess what… STILL ALIVE! It wasn’t too bad and I actually couldn’t tell the difference between the tap water and the barrel water. I even had two glasses for my wife and said “guess which one is the barrel water?” She didn’t want to play. 🙂 However there is a chance in an earthquake I may lose access to the garage or the water could be contaminated or the barrels break so we have smaller 5 gallon water jugs in the basement. Plus have you tried to move 55 gallons of water? Super Heavy! It’s easier to get a 5 year-old out of the candy or toy section of the store than move the water barrels. We do have a hand pump to hook up and get the water out, but we like to have extra water in smaller containers on hand. It came in super handy when we had the latest 24-hour water scare. Small containers are easy to move around and easy to store around the house.
But My Budget Can’t Afford It and I Live in an Apartment
I realize this type of planning works best for people with a lot of space. But I also lived in downtown Salt Lake City when I was a TV reporter and had a small apartment that was only accessible by elevator. I obviously couldn’t have giant water barrels or shelves of food in an apartment. But I also didn’t let it be an excuse to not be prepared. The best thing was to have lots of water on hand. I would usually have an empty two liters of pop and would have 5-10 of them in a closet or somewhere under the bed where they weren’t in the way. I also had 72-hour kits of food in a bucket and would just have that on hand. I figure if I can survive on my own for 72-hours I might end up okay or at least hopefully resources would be available at that time or I could make it to my parents’ house. (You can google 72-hour kits; there is a ton of information on how to prepare a kit). I also have 72-hour kits in my car and my wife’s car. They are in backpacks we can grab and go if needed. I also have a big flashlight, blankets, and a first-aid kit….and yes my golf clubs…you know you have to save the important and essential things :-). I just like to play golf and work near a course. *Note from Laurie: here is a post I wrote on how to stockpile in small spaces. In our backpacks we have water, 72 supply of food (not awesome food, just survivable yucky food) and snack bars and a small amount of cash in small bills. We also have a few pair of clothes, flashlights, lighter, pen, paper…etc. These 72 hour kits need to be updated since the snack bars only last so long and my 5 year old daughter grows leaps and bound each year and needs updated clothes. Again you can’t plan for a disaster and chances are I am going to be at work and away from home. Who knows it might happen tonight or at a football game or maybe riding the Tower of Terror at Disneyland while on vacation, you just don’t know.
Every Plan is Different – Just like Personal Finance Plans
There is no perfect plan for everyone. There is no exact check off list that if you do this life will be totally okay because you can’t predict when, how big, and exactly what will happen. It is just trying your best, being prepared, and going on with life as normal. You will never worry about being over prepared…just like you never worry about the problem of having too much money. And just like with money, just start small and build from there and after time you will be amazed at the end results. Lance, thanks for this thorough and informative post. As we face a good 12-15 inches of snow today, I can’t help but think about how grateful I am that we have implemented much of what Lance suggests here, and that we have what we need to make it here at home for a few days if need be. *this post contains affiliate links