Choosing a timeframe for prepping is an important part of any preparedness plan. This article will show you how to decide for how long you want to prepare stocks and how to check whether you reached your goal or not.

In the last post in this series we showed how you can start right away with preparations without any prior knowledge. We just assumed you’d be preparing for about 14 days of being cut off of your usual resources. This time we’ll go a little deeper into the decision process of how long you will try to last.

What to prepare for?

Although it may seem obvious, this is a point that is often ignored. It’s worth noting that you can’t just prepare for everything. You can do a lot to cover many different situations but not everything. And remember there are two ways to overdo basic preparations. One is to end up like a tacticalgear head like us. You start collecting gear, learning survival skills, getting training and more. The other way is to push yourself to the point where you see potential disaster everywhere and put so much into your preparations that you might end up wondering if this life you’ve learned to protect against everything is still more than mere existence. In short, either learn to love it as a hobby or don’t overdo it.

If you’ve read any of my HowTo-posts, you’ll know that my approach is to start slow and safe. It’s no different with disaster preparedness.

So, to avoid overdoing it, start with the most likely situations, which might force you to reach for your prepared supplies and equipment. This depends very much on your personal situation.

Scenarios to prepare for and choosing a timeframe for prepping

To give you an example, here’s what I came up with, with the most likely situations at the top.

  1. Getting injured or ill so that everyone in the family is forced to stay at home (e.g. broken leg for singles, high fever for families)
  2. Being locked down or quarantined due to a pandemic (I have recently rated this higher lately for known reasons)
  3. Nearby river going over its banks thus flooding our surroundings (we are on the second floor of an aparment building so it’s likely we can stay at home)
  4. A widespread electric blackout (for whatever reason)

Some of these are more likely to strike at the same time. For example, when you’re in the middle of a flooded area it’s to be expected that electricity will be shut down or cut off.

A flooded town
Flooding gets more common over the last years

To start with your preparations, assess what all the results of these scenarios are.

Effects of your scenarios

Numbers correspond to the list above.

  1. You can’t leave your home easily, so no grocery shopping or restocking. You’re hurt/sick/weak and can’t do a lot that includes moving. You might need medication.
  2. Also no leaving your home.
  3. You will have to stay at home. Most likely you will not have access to electricity, tap water and heating.
  4. You can roam around but you will miss electricity and most likely water and heating. There’s a chance supermarkets and grocery stores shut down. Maybe no communication.

Ok, that’s something to start with. We started with 4 scenarios and all of them include losing access to supermarkets and grocery stores. Maybe you can still order food or even groceries if you have such a service, but depending on the situation, that might or might not be possible. So you will have to stock what you need for a few days. See our post about easy preparations for details. Let’s first look at the time you’re planning for. If you look at the 4 scenarios, I’d say 14 days of stocks is more than enough. Don’t start out with preparations for several weeks or months. The benefit will be low but the cost and storage requirements quite high. You can always do that later if you feel like it. Don’t get me wrong, preparing for a longer period might be a good idea but just stocking up on food won’t do it.

Preparations for 14 days in a nutshell

All the introductory “prepping” posts we have cover this 14 day time span. I don’t want to repeat the information so the following is just a very short sum up.


Just buy what you usually get and focus on things that have a little longer shelf live and can be prepared without electricity. Start by just buying extras when doing your usual grocery shopping. Don’t pile up canned food you never eat, go for things that stay for at least 14 days, eat it and replace it immediately.

Don’t forget anyone in your family and get things you actually like.


Keep a small count of bottled water. Carbonated for you (stays longer), plain for pets. Get containers like water bags and fill them if a disaster is imminent. Consider getting a water filter for hikers and make sure you have the right purification method for the contamination that’s to be expected in your area.

Make plans on how to transport water back to your home or to collect rain.


Make sure to have a rechargeable version of everything you can’t live without. Get power banks and maybe even solar chargers that are compatible with these items. Consider a battery charger that works with solar power or solar panels to have more options.

For the most important things get a set of non-rechargeable batteries because they stay longer. When they are over their shelf life, use and replace them.

Choosing a timeframe for prepping for more than 14 days

You might be tempted to just pile up more supplies and feel safe for a longer period of time. That may work but the longer the period the less likely will that be enough.

Why just stocking more is not enough

An easy example why is the following:

Can you think of a period where you didn’t need the help of a specialist for 14 days? With specialist I mean anyone providing services that you can’t do yourself. Like a doctor, dentist, electrician, service engineer for kitchen appliances etc. I bet you can.

But can you think of a period where you didn’t need them for, say, 6 months? And remember, an ongoing disaster will put you, your family and your gear under a lot more stress than usual.

So there’s 4 things you can take from this

  • Learn as much about being self sufficient as possible. But again, don’t overdo it. There are things you simply can’t do on yourself. You can learn all about brain surgery, you won’t be able to use it at home. You can’t prepare for everything. And just learning crafts for a possible disaster might cost you so much time and energy you won’t enjoy your precious life anymore. Better think of it as a reason to look into different crafts you could use in a disaster and if you like them, make them a hobby that is actually useful
  • Think about redundancy for the most important things when choosing a timeframe for prepping. If there are things you absolutely need, get more than one. Repairing might not be possible so make sure you have enough. Again, don’t overdo it. Don’t put 4 washing machines in your apartment. But essentials like flashlights, knives, water purification etc. might benefit from redundancy
  • Learn to improvise. That’s where classical prepping and survival overlap. We have a whole series of blog posts about how to train your survival skills. It’s not so much about learning complicated techniques. It’s more about preparing your mind for improvisation with what you have
  • There are things you simply can’t prepare for. Some disasters, accidents or illnesses can’t be dealt with no matter how well you’re prepared

How to go beyond 14 days when choosing a timeframe for prepping

This part of your preparations is very personal. It depends a lot on your situation, your family, where you live and so on. So I can just try to give you hints on how you can determine what you need no ready made list.

Like with the “shopping extras” or “make a list” method for stocking supplies, you can prepare during your daily life. Start a list for long term preparations. Every time you need something you can’t provide on your own and you can’t do without, note that down.

I mean you don’t have to note when you get a painter to repaint your kitchen. I bet you can do without new paint in a disaster. But you have to note when you need new prescriptions for your medication. Or get a new pair of glasses because you broke your old one. Or when you had someone fix your houses roof or plumbing. All these things might be indications of how long you could go without help. Some come regularly, others will just give hints on times.

How choosing a timeframe for prepping can help with your daily life

This list will also help with deciding what you might want to look into for learning. Need a plumber very often? Learn basic plumbing. That could even save you money outside of disasters. But remember, there are good reasons to leave some tasks to professionals.

If it’s not about skills but items or stocks, think about getting extras. You depend on your glasses but tend to break them? Get an extra pair – if you go for the mere basics it shouldn’t cost much. Need medicine? Ask you doctor do give you extra prescriptions.

Testing your preparations

How can you tell if you got the right stuff and skill set for your needs? There are several ways of testing.

List based

When you keep lists of when you need to buy something you miss or need help from a professional, start keeping track how that went. Did you just restock or did you really run out of something essential? And did you really need help or didn’t you just want to take chances but could have done it yourself?

Choosing a timeframe for prepping for a camping trip…

Some people go on camping trips using their prepared supplies. Like, say you prepare for 14 days of disasters. Then split what you have in two equal parts, put one part into your car and go on a 7 day camping trip. Do you need to buy anything in that time or do you need extras from the camping lot? Don’t let yourself get stopped from enjoying your trip just keep track if you get dinner at a fancy restaurant because it’s nice or if you do it because you ran out of supplies. When you get home, start restocking.

… and beyond

There are even people who do tests the hardcore way. Pull the fuses in your home and live for a few days from what you have. Just be sure you’re not damaging anything with this test. Like frozen and bursting water pipes.

Sometimes it’s enough to to partial tests. When you get a gas powered camping stove for when your electrical stove won’t work in a blackout, test it once in a while. Get an extra can of gas and use one now and then to make some coffee or ramen noodles. Keep track of the weight so you can estimate how often you could cook from a single can.

Title photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash . Photo by Chris Gallagher on Unsplash