I want to show you some guidelines that will help with easy preparations for disaster. If you’re new to the topic and don’t want to make it your hobby or focus of life, this post is for you. It’s for people who want to be prepared with as low effort as possible while still covering the most important scenarios.
As a starting point this post will only focus on groceries and supplies. There are more things to consider and we’ll give an outlook in the end, but for now it’s the most important part: food and drinks.
To make things even easier, we’ll cover a time of 14 days. How you can estimate how long you want to prepare for will be part of another post, let’s just say, 14 days of groceries will cover many likely events without breaking your storage capacity or budget.
Easy preparations for supplies
When it comes to stocking up on food and other necessities I often read about people buying noodles and beans in bulk together with huge amounts of flour, yeast and oil.
Yes, these things have a more or less endless shelf life and will feed you. But let me ask you a few personal questions: Do you like noodles and beans? Maybe with nothing else? Do you know how to bake bread from the bare ingredients? Especially when you don’t have electricity to fuel your bread maker or sensor driven oven? Why then waste space and money on these things?
There are two better approaches to stock up that can be combined just as it fits for you. Both of them will take some time for your preparations to complete. That’s one of the reasons why you should start in peaceful, happy, healthful times and not just before disaster strikes. It’s never to late, to start, though. So stay tuned.
That’s by far my favourite but read on for the other one as well to get a real failsafe solution.
Whenever you go grocery shopping, I mean for your daily life, not as part of easy preaparations, you buy some pieces more than you intended to, especially of things with a long(ish) shelf life. Let’s assume, you’re a big fan of canned goulash. (Hey, I don’t judge – I for example love Ramen noodles). When you would buy 3 cans for a week, next time you go shopping, buy 5 cans. Next time, you would buy 3 cans, buy 5 again. Repeat that until you ended up with enough cans to feed yourself for you planned timeframe. This way, you won’t break your budget and after 2 weeks you have 4 days of extra goulash. Nice.
After 7 weeks you have enough cans to have a decent (hey, you said, you love that stuff) meal for your 14 days of preparation. What do you do with these 14 cans? Store in the cellar and plan in your calender to look after them every 3 years? No. You keep them where you keep your food you eat regularly. When you want some of your delicious goulash, you open the oldest can you have and replace it as soon as possible. To be extra safe, you can go for 17 cans so you can have your weekly 3 cans without touching your spare ones. Just to be clear: It changes over time, which are the spare ones.
Keeping your easy preparations going
An easy way to achieve that is by moving cans around on the shelf. Always put new ones in the back and take from the front. If you don’t like that kind of training, you can use some token to mark the one you’ll eat next or just check the best-before date. Since we’re talking about cans it doesn’t matter if you mix them up once in a while as long as you rotate them quite often.
Maybe, you love goulash but you’re not *that* big a fan. Then mix it up. 7 cans of goulash, 5 packs of Ramen and 2 cans of soup. It doesn’t matter, what you stock, as long as you like it.
What if you can’t stand canned food?
Well, that’s not really a problem. See, with that approach you will only need to make sure that whatever you stock up has to have some items that live as long as you plan your preparations for. You will always have enough for 14 days. If disaster strikes you can live off your supplies and you don’t care if these things could stay another 3 years because you will have long eaten them.
Remember, that also doesn’t mean you will always have to eat 14 days old vegetables. Just make sure that, whenever you take something from your storage, you replace it. And replace enough items so you will never go below 14 rations before you get to go shopping again.
To sum it all up
When you add up all you have at home, you need to have enough items that will stay long enough. That doesn’t mean, that every item has to stay long enough. Yes, you can eat most things safely after it’s best-before date but that doesn’t go for everything and you will want to keep your moods high, too. 13 day old, not refrigerated “fresh” fish doesn’t help with good moods. Or surviving. It’s totally ok to have 3 items, that stay 3 days, 5 items that stay 10 days and the rest stay longer. It will just dictate the menu for the first few days of your lockdown. Of course you don’t need to restrict yourself to products that come in 1 day rations. Just make sure you have everything to cook a meal and then count that as one day. For example, if your favorite rice dish needs 200g of rice, buy 1kg of rice and make sure you have everything else in a preserved variant 5 times, too. And you have 5 days covered for lunch. Rice is a bad example, though and I’ll tell you why.
Focus on items that can be stored and prepared without power. Not every disaster will cut off electricity but you will want to cover as many scenarios as possible. Remember: When you find things that are delicious without heating them: Great. If not but you can still live with eating them cold, it’s way better than nothing.
A variant of “buy extras”
A variant that’s easier to maintain but needs a bit more space. Only count rations that have a long shelf life and don’t need heating or other preparations. Make sure you have a bit more than you need to cover your timeframe. Once in a while, e.g. monthly, you eat one of them and replace it immediately. The rest of the time you ignore them completely and just shop and eat like you wouldn’t think of your easy preparations. This way you know, you always have your time frame covered, worst case, but most likely have more than you need. And you don’t have to keep track of what stays how long and how much you have.
If you don’t like preserved food but still stock it to be prepared, why not make something special with it? Go out into the great outdoors and prepare a can with a wood fire or on a hobo stove. This way you can rotate your stocks, train your survival skills and have a good time outdoors.
List based easy preparations
The other approach is to keep a second shopping list. Whenever you write your shopping list, you sift through your second list as well. When you are going to buy something, you ask yourself if you could live without out. That could mean literally like important medicine or food but it could also mean figuratively like chocolate, coffee, cigarettes or vodka. If you need something in your life, put it on the second list if it is not already on it. Check the second list regularly if there are new items and make sure you have enough to make it through your expected timeframe.
The same ritual of “eating from the front, replacing in the back” works with this approach as well.
When you do both methods at the same time you will end up with the most wholesome and least intrusive method of preparation for disaster. The “extras” method will make preparations way easier and makes sure you don’t need a big budget to start. The “list” approach will make sure you don’t forget anything important. Especially when you keep it up for months or even years.
In the examples we only talked about lunch. Remember to cover breakfast, dinner and snacks as well!
Don’t forget anyone
These two approaches have a big benefit over sitting down and trying to come up with a list of important items. You will not only get things you actually like but you will get things that work for you and your family. What good is it to stock canned food that will stay forever when half of your family is allergic to it? Or how much will it impact the mood of the family when you will have to send your beloved dog away because you forgot to stock up on dogfood?
This goes even a longer distance. You won’t just stock up on food but what about toothpaste, hygienic products, basic cleaning stuff, even pasttimes like your beloved Sudoku blocks. Whatever you buy regularly you will have on your list and you can decide whether you want to stock up or not.
Speaking of importance and not forgetting anyone. Try not only to cover allergies but also food preferences. While it’s true that people get more open to compromises the hungrier they get, remember what’s your goal. These easy preparations don’t just focus on mere survival. It’s about living and keeping motivated. So plan for vegans, vegetarians or whatever is part of your family.
How to deal with stuff that comes in huge packages that last way longer than 14 days (or your designated timeframe)? Either buy a new one when you come close to only 14 days left. Or, depending on size, price and shelf life, next time buy two packs. When the first runs out, open the second one and immediately buy a new one.
How I do it
Until now I focus mainly on the “buy extras” approach, but during writing the post I convinced myself to start the mix of both. What I do in addition is that I stock up on emergency food that will hold forever in case I run out of “normal” supplies. But that’s more about me being a gear enthusiast and use it on outdoor trips. Not because I think I might need so much extra stocks.
There’s a lot of information available about this very topic. A good point to start is the website of your local civilian disaster relief forces. Here are examples:
- If you can read German, the Austrian and German civil defense has some good resources, especially PDFs about the topic
- The US CDC has information on how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse. They are using a popular genre to help with gamification of the topic. This way it doesn’t feel as threatening to think about it. The tips are real. The rational behind it is that people like talking about zombies and if you’re prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you’re prepared for anything else, too.
Outlook to more easy preparations
This is a good start to easy preparations. We’re preparing more posts on the topic that might cover topics like:
- minimalist preparations
- estimations for easy preparations
- keeping a preparations journal
You will be surprised about how much you already have at home.
About the author
widhalmt is what you might call a tactical gearhead with a focus on collecting. Like your average nerd he likes to dig into topics he’s interested in and learn as much about them as possible. Then he tries to get hold of his items of interest (he’s quite picky about brand and model when he chose a certain item) and put them to the test. Be it while walking the dog in the woods or go for overnighters outdoors.
In his daytime job he works as lead support engineer for an open source IT consulting company. Since his work involves a lot of travelling and going to customers he has quite some experience in choosing items that are rugged enough for constant travelling but still work in an office environment without offending anyone by being “too tactical” (although he tends to stretch that last part a bit). It’s safe to say that he has some tactical gear on him when he walks out the door (and sometimes even when he stays at home).
In tactical gear he has very widespread interests but if he had to pick something, it’s be knives, bags/backpacks and camo patterns (especially PenCott)