Prepping often gets a bad, or weird, reputation in mainstream media. Prepping, as it’s referred to, is basically being prepared for a major disaster where emergency personnel can’t get to you for several days. Some people take it further and try to have enough prepping supplies to last 6 months or longer, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to discuss prepping for a short amount of time.
Surviving for a few days on your own is not a far-fetched belief only followed by the overzealous. In graduate school I studied emergency management and disaster response. One of the most frightening/interesting things I learned is that, in the event of a significant disaster, you must be prepared to survive on your own for 72 hours.
That’s actually why the government recommends you “prep” with a 72 hour (3 days) kit, since it could take emergency responders up to 72 hours to reach you. In reality, it could take more or less time to reach you, depending on the magnitude of the disaster and the number of injuries or causalities. If you’re not seriously injured, emergency personnel may request you stay in your shelter (if it’s adequate) while they triage others in worse situations than you.
All that said, prepping is financially savvy and highly recommended. What you see on Doomsday Preppers, for example, is but one extreme way to prep. In reality, it doesn’t take much time, space, or money to effectively prep, and prepping can actually save you money.
How Prepping is Financially Savvy
Contrary to what some may think, prepping does not have to cost you extra money. In fact, many preppers (the term used for people who prepare for emergencies) you don’t see on TV are average people who just happen to have extra supplies. Here are ways you can save money on prepping supplies, from most money saved to less money saved.
The majority of tap water in the United States is perfectly acceptable to use as drinking water. In the event of an emergency, you can fill up gallon (or larger) bottles of water from your tap to use in an emergency. This is the easiest, cheapest way to get clean water, and it’s practically free (minus the cost of the water bottles).
If your water is not clean enough to drink (or if you’re picky about your water), you can buy filtered water. One way to save money on filtered water would be to buy those 5-gallon water bottles and fill them up ahead of time with filtered water (usually found at Water & Ice stores, or outside your local grocery store).
Water won’t keep forever in plastic containers, so over the year, use it up. You can use it to drink, of course, or to water your pets.
Buying food for prepping is no more expensive than buying groceries regularly. Contrary to what you may see on those Doomsday Preppers or Extreme Couponing shows, there is no need to hunt for your own food, or buy tons of processed food you wouldn’t normally eat.
People who prep often buy extra food when it’s on sale. It helps if that food is processed, to some degree, as fresh food goes bad quickly (or at least quickly in terms of prepping). However, that’s not to say all processed food is gross. Many of us enjoy crackers, peanut butter, granola bars, and other processed foods that are fairly healthy, tasty, and last a while. If you buy these extra products when they’re on sale, you’re not spending much more than usual.
The beauty of buying extra staples of things you’d already eat is when it’s time to eat them because of shelf-life expiration dates, you’ll like it. Extra granola bars to eat at work? Extra crackers for a snack? Win for prepping and win for regular eating!
By the way, I don’t mention hunting or canning because many people don’t know how to (or don’t want to) do it. If you do hunt or know how to can, by all means go for it in the event of an emergency. Just be careful and follow safety procedures when hunting or canning.
Stocking up enough toiletries is much easier with a Costco or Sam’s Club membership! You can buy one package of toilet paper, paper towels, and other personal hygiene items and be set for almost an entire year. I highly recommend going to a big-box store to stock up for toiletries if you have the ability. It’s a big cost at the beginning, but pays for itself over a long time.
If you don’t have a big-box store membership, the same “shopping sales” advice for food remains true for toiletries. Always buy extra of products you use regularly when they’re on sale. Coupons come in handy here, too. Since toiletries don’t go bad, you can stockpile as much as you can keep without worrying about expiration dates.
Personally, I use my toiletries stockpile regularly. However, I make sure to have enough by always going shopping when we get down to half or a quarter’s worth of toiletries. Toilet paper is something you don’t want to run out of ever – emergency situation or not!
On to the expensive stuff… medicine! While it’s difficult to stockpile prescription meds, as some doctors won’t allow you to get more than your monthly dose, it’s fairly easy to stockpile over the counter medications. However, it’s not cheap.
Buying medication in bulk is tricky, because there’s no guarantee you’ll need to use it all up by the expiration date. You could give extra medication to family, if they’ll use it, before it expires so it won’t go to waste.
However, some medications you can purchase in bulk or on sale because they likely will be used over the course of 1 or 2 years, or have a long shelf life. These include
- Latex or sterile gloves
- Antibiotic ointment
This list is not exhaustive, but you can find recommendations from the government on what to include in your first aid kit here.
Storing Your 72 Hour Kit
You don’t need a lot of room for your 72 hour kit. If you just have enough to last 72 hours (3 days), you should be able to store it on top of the fridge, in a cabinet, or even under your bed. If you have children, make sure the medications are at least out of harm’s way.
You can even keep your 72 hour kit stored in individual backpacks, one for each person in your family. Store it in each family member’s closet, or in one big closet for quick access in case your house is damaged and you have to leave.
If you’re trying to store more than 72 hours worth of food, toiletries, water, and medicine, you will need more room. Consider devoting a closet as your “prep area” where you keep everything. Having everything in a central location is also helpful for other family members, as they will know exactly where to go in case of an emergency.
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Being a prepper isn’t a crazy fringe movement, at least if done with reasonable moderation. Having an emergency plan and backup supplies is actually one of the most financially savvy things you can do, emergencies or not. You don’t have to live in California to be concerned about floods – just look at Texas. It’s time to think of prepping as what it really is: a financially savvy way to be prepared for emergencies of any size.