Getting Started

If you are new to prepping, it can feel overwhelming trying to figure out where to start. Most of us don’t have extensive backgrounds in this area and are maybe just waking up to the fact that it’s probably a good idea to prepare ourselves for coming disaster. The first questions we may have is what types and how much food to stockpile, how and where to store it all and how long it lasts.

When we first got into the homesteading and prepping lifestyle, we had no idea how complicated it could be and it took me awhile to convince my hubby that no, we couldn’t just stockpile top ramen, cheese and coffee. Just because they use cheese as collateral for loans in Italy doesn’t mean that we’ll be able to barter with wheels of parmesan in a SHTF scenario in Idaho.

If we really want to survive a long term situation, we’d need to have the right foods and in the right amounts, stored the right way. We are still learning as we go, of course, but luckily we have the internet to help us work it all out and I thought I’d share some of my favorite websites for doing that.

It’s a bit easier when it’s just one or two people but now that our adult son has moved back in with us we are topping up our food and water stores to cover everyone. We also like to have extras just in case. You never know if you’ll have to help a neighbor or family member who doesn’t live with you and it’s good to have plenty to go around. Food may even be a good bartering tool (maybe flour and sugar – not entire wheels of parmesan!) so having more than you need is never a bad idea.

How much and what types of food do I need?

Many preppers make it a goal to have at least a year’s worth of a wide variety of food per person. That is obviously a lofty goal for most of us and can be difficult to do financially and logistically. If you let it overwhelm you, you may just give up so it’s better if you set smaller goals and work your way up to having a year supply or however much you can afford and store. Not everyone has the space to keep a year’s worth of food and water!

Two weeks is a good place to start, since most of us can find the space and extra money to afford it, and it helps to have a food storage calculator to give you a good idea of the variety of foods and in what amounts. There are a few of them out there but we like the one at EZ-Prepping.com. It’s super easy to use.

We are working on our goal of having three months’ worth of food now, and once we get there, we’ll double that to six months and then work toward our one year goal. It’s much easier to let them do the work for you and have a simple, easy to follow guideline you can download or print off and use at a glance. A digital spreadsheet is nice, but I just keep a notebook with a list of each type of food, how much I have accumulated so far and when it expires.

This calculator doesn’t take into account picky eaters, food allergies or special dietary needs, so that’s something you’ll have to work out which is what I’m doing in order to insure we have what we need as far as “safe” foods and meals we’ll all eat here for everyone. It can be challenging when you have two people with different special needs in the household like we do, but it’s not un-doable.

On top of these basics, you can definitely add in things like Top Ramen (it’s cheap and lasts forever in the pantry), adjust to have more of your favorite foods or, like in our case, foods that won’t send you into anaphylaxis. My son and I both have mast cell disease and we have vastly different food triggers that set us off, so I have to take that into consideration.

It’s challenging to accommodate several people and their needs, but again, it’s doable and just takes a little extra time and planning.

How long does food last?

Expiration dates can be tricky, so we like to use the guidelines for each type of food at EatByDate.com.

I just make a little notation next to each food item’s expiration date in my notebook so I know how long they are actually good for versus the “best by” date printed on them. That’s important to know because if you go solely by the date printed on the food, you can easily get discouraged by the whole process. Most foods are good well beyond the official expiration date, especially if you store it correctly.

How to store food all this food properly?

This can also feel overwhelming and there are so many options to choose from. It depends on several factors like where you live, what types of foods and how much space you have. A two week or three month supply can generally be kept in the original packaging and doesn’t take up too much room. A year’s worth is going to need more space, long term storage containers and a more controlled environments.

We are in the process of adding a small root cellar and cold storage area here but not everyone has that option. So you definitely want to take that into account before you start the entire process.

A thorough guide can be found at Urban Survival Site and I highly recommend going through their Beginner’s Guide to Emergency Food Storage.

They have a ton of tips and useful advice for everyone. Another good place is the YouTube channel, City Prepping. He covers everything including emergency water storage which can be extremely challenging for some of us.

There are tons of other resources out there, but these are the ones we like so far. If you have other suggestions for websites or preppers that have good advice for newbies, feel free to share them in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Getting Started

  1. I must admit I’ve never heard of ‘prepping’ before your Post and I feel it must be an American thing. I just couldn’t get my head around stockpiling for Armageddon. If that is in fact coming, which I don’t accept, I’ll take my chances. I don’t think I want to live in a cave or in a lockdown situation with crowds of hungry hunters roving outside wanting my supplies. But to each his own. Certainly, your very thorough article will help those who are into survival methods. It is certainly useful. Good luck with the storage. What about the animals? Do you stockpile for them as well?

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    1. Yes, we stockpile for the animals, too, but not so much for Armageddon just rather for natural disaster or a financial collapse like what happened during the Great Depression. History tends to repeat itself and some of us would rather be prepared and not need it than the other way around. πŸ™‚

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  2. I remember, not all that long ago, really, when people were encouraged to be prepared for emergencies by having at least a few weeks or a month’s worth of necessary supplies stocked up, just in case. When I was editor of a newsletter for the co-op we lived in at the time (don’t ever live in a housing co-op, but that’s another story altogether…), I even wrote articles on what sorts of things to stock up on, and what to include in a bug-out bag. As we had quite a few adapted units and a lot of people with physical disabilities, I geared the articles more for them. Prepping can be very different when you rely on a wheelchair or walker to get around, are on a lot of medications, or need assistance just to get out of bed and get dressed! However, with years of drought and lots of forest fires, the possibility of evacuation was very real (hence the bug-out bags), as was the possibility of having to shelter in place while utilities were down, awaiting emergency assistance.

    When my kids were younger and we were homeschooling, a lot of other homeschoolers talked about how to stockpile basic supplies and generally be self sufficient. Then, over the next couple of decades, there was a strange shift, and attitudes changed. Emergency preparedness went from “of course we should all have enough to see us through unforeseen disasters” to being something only crazy, anti-government, anti-social, religious fanatics (read: gun owners, conservatives and Christians) did. There was a definite ideological bias in the shift. Even when fires were raging at Fort Mac had to be evacuated, none of these people clued in that having a bug-out bag or being stocked up for such circumstances really was a good idea.

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    1. I think this is why the CDC uses the whole “zombie apocalypse” thing to try and get people to understand that it’s important to be prepared in case of disaster. Not that we hope it will happen, but we know that it might and it’s good to be prepared. I live in Mormon country and they are big on being prepared so it’s kind of normalized here.

      And I agree about the co-op thing, I’ve heard nightmare stories!! That sounds worse than a zombie apocalypse to me. πŸ™‚

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      1. When we were early in our home schooling years, there was a former Mormon family on a Canadian egroup I was on. I remember the mom saying how they kept up the habit of keeping a year’s worth of supplies. When her husband lost his job and couldn’t find another for some months, they were so thankful for it. Being able to do things like bake brownies, all from their stash, was a huge psychological boost during hard times.

        As for the co-op, I hear they are very different in the US, but ours are little microcosms of socialism, and a disaster. I don’t know how the one we lived in is going to survive once the government grants and subsidies end in a few years!

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