Happy Monday, my friends! As a follow up to last week’s post, my dear IRL friend Michelle, who blogs about life and food over at Rockin’ the Mom Role (she’s a terrific resource for gluten-free recipes too), has written about the importance of not just surviving, but thriving, in a crisis situation. Also on tap for this week: a real-life story about how a family survived without power for 10 days due to a weather catastrophe. Welcome, Michelle!
Many times we hear about ‘preppers’, and as was mentioned here in last week’s post, ‘prepping’ is not merely about a fictional zombie apocalypse. Preppers are people who gain the security and mental comfort from knowing they have a plan A AND a plan B in an unforeseen emergency. There is a correlation between those who merely survive an emergency, and those who survive and THRIVE.
So, how does one thrive in the face of adversity, emotional, and mental challenges?
Step 1: Have a mental attitude of preparedness.
For example: most people will think ahead to put an emergency kit in the trunk of their car. You can do a quick google to find out what is important to have in a car specific emergency kit. But have you thought beyond that? What if the roads are impassible? What if due to chaos and panic, cell phone lines are down or jammed? What if it’s night, or winter, or 120 degrees out? What would be your plan? Have you talked to your family to let them know your plan of action and how you would connect with them? Have you discussed this with your children? Have you made a plan for them? As a parent, I can understand the concern parents experience letting their children take off for the evening. But would that anxiety be lessened if you had a plan and contingency laid out for any possible scenario?
This idea of always thinking ahead should follow you in everything. What if there is no power? What if there was no emergency services? What if you are away from home, how do you even get home? What if the grocery stores were picked clean or shut down due to a power outage? What if you were injured and alone? What if you witnessed a catastrophe or emergency? What if your family is separated?
Stop thinking that when a fire happens you will all be home and in bed, and start thinking about the tornado that can hit while you are at work and the kids at school. Start thinking about what you would do if the power grid was knocked out or we experienced another large-scale terrorist attack like we did on 9/11. Think about human nature, and how people will behave during a crisis. Think about yourself: if all hell broke loose, and you needed to feed your children, wouldn’t you do whatever it took so that they didn’t go hungry? Think about Hurricane Katrina: government help was delayed in coming, and people were left with no source of water or food. If disaster strikes, you need to have a plan in place, not only for the safety and provision of your own family, but so you can be the calm in the storm. People will be looking toward the prepared survivor for direction and leadership. Be the leader, not the panicked and helpless.
Step 2: Plan for Plan B and C.
For example: As was mentioned in Laurie’s previous post, they did not plan on running out of propane and did not have their back up batteries charged. Well, that is a failure of Plan A. They planned for the situation of not having power, but only had one way of solving that problem. Never rely on one solution in the case it fails. Have a back up for Plan A. Along with battery back up, there should be Plan B, candles (along with safe ways to burn them), lighters, as well as oil lanterns. And then Plan C, glow sticks, solar charges to run electronic devices or even investing in a power generator. Do you have an extra 5 gallons of fuel stored safely in a fireproof gas can? Do you have extra wicks for the oil lanterns? Do you have the correct batteries for the devices you have? Do you have enough both batteries, candles and lighters?
Following this idea of thinking beyond the obvious power needs, do you have an emergency shovel? What if there is property destruction and you need to dig out? If you store water, that is great, but it does age. Do you have a water filtration system like a ‘life straw’ where you can drink from a puddle, stream or nearby lake if need be? Do you have an emergency medical kit? Is it one that contains blood clotting materials? In an emergency like an earthquake, tornado or hurricane, people can suffer severe injuries that might be helped by stopping the loss of bleeding. Do you have pain medications in case medical help cannot reach you? Do you have a basic knowledge of, or handbook on, how to treat basic injuries? All these expenses can be prioritized and planned out for purchase as your budget allows. As the old saying goes, Peace of mind is Priceless.
Step 3: Be prepared to THRIVE.
For example: There are many out there who have a fairly decent pantry, some have a freezer full of food, some canned goods, some dried/shelf stable goods. It’s easy to sit back on our laurels and think to ourselves ‘yeah, i’m ready!’. But are you really?
In the worst of circumstances, one can survive quite well on beans and rice. I have a friend who bought a 20# bag of rice and bags of beans and felt assured she was prepared for the worst of circumstances. But is she? Muddle on this a bit: What if power was out for over a week, and because of severe storms and overtaxed emergency services, you were stranded on you own for a week, maybe two? (**This actually happened while I was growing up in Oregon where we lived in the West Hills and there were ice storms that took out the power and stranded us for over a week one year.)
Could you survive on rice and beans? Well, if you have the means to cook it, yes. Personally, I have kept an old iron dutch oven with a long handle that can be used over a camp fire. Because of my preparedness thought process, if the situation arose I can rehydrate beans and cook them over a camp fire if I am left with no other alternatives. Sometimes, a crockpot is not available, nor a pressure cooker. Nor a stove.
But I encourage you to think even beyond the challenges of cooking the food. Think about….THRIVING, in adversity. Can you eat rice and beans, or cold canned tuna and instant potatoes? Yes, you can. But would you want to? For a week? Or two? I refuse to allow myself to be so unprepared that I and the ones I love are miserable for that period of time. I refuse to bow to adversity, or allowing it to prevent me from being a point of light for my family and others in a time of dark. One day we could be the embodiment of the old parable of the Grasshopper and the Ant and wouldn’t you rather be the ant, in charge of your own destiny, able to help others? I don’t want to be the grasshopper begging at the door, hoping and praying someone of good heart and charity will let me in because I was so foolish as to not plan.
So what are some suggestions for supplementing your basic food preparedness? Well, a 10# can or two of freeze dried meats will add savoriness to a simple soup or addition to a starch. Have various carb sources such as pancake mix, oats, instant potatoes, quinoa, chia. Know that rices like brown and wild will go rancid if not stored in a vacuum environment. Having some sweets around: I buy the costco bags of chocolate chips, vacuum seal them and store with a date on them. As long as they don’t oxidize and are kept cool, they will last a very long time. Chocolate always makes people happy and can be added to rice cooked with milk as a simple dessert. Dried fruits are wonderful and last a long time. To keep them fresh, vacuum seal or store in ziploc freezer bags. Write on the bags and on cans in a BOLD sharpie the date of expiration. It will be ‘good’ long after that date, but its helpful to rotate your inventory. Maple syrup and Cane Sugar. Honey, it keeps indefinitely. Yes, indefinitely! It also is a wonderful antibacterial and can be applied to wounds. Honey added to oatmeal is a treat, or better yet to hot milk with a sprinkle of nutmeg will help stressed children and adults alike sleep better.
Which brings me to spices: buy whole when possible. Penzeys is a good mail order source. Buying whole will stretch the shelf life to years instead of months. A cheap coffee grinder will grind it up nicely (this is where your solar charger comes in handy!) or you can do like those of previous, pre-electric generations did, grind with a mortar and pestle, another essential in your arsenal of survival. Spices will add flavor, and increase the THRIVE factor many-fold. There is a reason the spice trade made the world globally interconnected. Be sure to have spices in your pantry and emergency stores at all times. An added benefit is there are many proven therapeutic and mental benefits to spices. Ginger will settle a sour stomach. Nutmeg helps sleep. Garlic is an anti-bacterial. Cinnamon boosts the metabolism and aids digestion. Fennel can help with nausea. Do some spice and herbal education, and get it in your pantry. Remember to buy whole and grind as needed. It is the most cost effective way to purchase spices.
Remember fats. It is a good idea to invest in a small amount of canned fats. Do your own research on the quality and reviews of what is out there. I keep a small amount of canned butter on hand for long term storage, as well as oils. The oils I change out yearly. Lard can be pressure-canned and made shelf stable, which is an option if you have access to pork fat.
Don’t forget veggies. I keep freeze dried in my emergency storage. I have the 25-year kind that I can pull out on any occasion. Along with a nice variety of veggies, I make sure I have some fruit on hand. I have canned, but that has to be rotated on the shelf. Freeze dried (note: FREEZE dried, not simply dried) has all the nutrients of fresh, only prepped for long term, 25-yr, storage. In fact, I would venture they are more healthy than canned, because they have not been exposed to the denaturing effects of heat.
I hope this inspires you to think not just about living through adversity, but to think about living and thinking differently – to be prepared and have a plan at all times. It sounds so basic, and yet, so many people never think about those basics. But a simple tweaking of the way you think can be the difference between surviving a situation, and thriving through it.