So you have your wheat and water filter – Now What?

By Teri Simpson

So you’ve decided it is probably not a bad idea to be a bit more prepared than the majority of people. This can be anything from preparing for being safe at home without power for 2 or 3 days (a pretty easy thing to prepare for), for maybe 2 weeks (OK, you’re going to have to put a bit more thought into it, or for a year or two in case something major happens. And this last scenario isn’t that remote when you have agencies like NASA saying it is a real potential.

Growing up in the mid-west makes one quite practical, partly because there are big thunder storms, tornados, ice storms and snow storms, all of which can leave you stranded at home with no electricity. So even the least prepared family has things like lanterns, candles, extra canned goods, warm blankets and the like. If there are storms in the area everyone fills up jugs of water and fills the bathtub with water “just in case”. And there are (or were) lots of farms there, and farmers are some of the most self sufficient people around. They provide their own meat, milk, fruits and veggies. During the Great Depression, the city folk were hard hit, but the farmers out in the country barely noticed a difference (except that the town folks were having a rough time of things).

When we decide to “become prepared” or “become more self sufficient” it is pretty obvious we need to supply some amount of food storage, store some “good” water, plus a way to make more good water (a water filter), and we’ve already covered the toilet paper issue :o)

But once you have buckets, cans and jars of food, and water stored up, a water filter, maybe even a hand pump on your well, what are some of the other items that you want to procure? What haven’t you thought of yet (that you’d miss big-time if you didn’t have it anymore)?

The best place to start is with pen and paper. Make a list of the obvious things:

First aid kit, extra first aid items to flush that out. And if you aren’t a doctor or nurse or EMT, one or more good books on first aid. You can read them later (take the First Aid/CPR class now though).
Light that works without electricity
Then what?

First look at your food storage: so you have some buckets of wheat, rice, lentils, beans, oats or oatmeal, split peas. Are you familiar with cooking those things? Have you stored salt, pepper, garlic (powder and minced), dried onion, whatever spices you currently cook with? Rice and beans and spices will be much more palatable with spices than just boiled in water. Buy bulk spices then repackage in smaller airtight light-proof containers with oxygen absorbers.

Do you have oil? In glass, olive oil will last a very long time, much longer than if in plastic (plastic is not airtight). If you have oil of any kind, having it in tins or glass is much better for long term storage than plastic. Also, ask yourself this: can you currently go through 2 gallons of any one type of oil before it goes rancid? If you don’t do that now, you probably won’t be doing that in a shelter situation. So don’t buy oil in huge containers. It might be cheaper upfront, but a bad idea in the long run. In the long run, you’ll probably come out ahead buying 32 oz or even 16 oz glass bottles of oil. If you have a very large family or go through a lot of oil get the 32 oz size (or maybe even ½ gallon).

Do you drink coffee? Tea? Do you take sugar in yours? Is hot cocoa your perfect comfort food? If so, get some.

These are the things it is pretty easy to put on a list. So let’s look at a common day or two and pay attention to each product we interact with throughout the day.

We get up and shower: do you have bar soap, shampoo, rinse? Do you shave? Even more important, do you want to CONTINUE to shave? Whether it is face, under arms or legs, you’ll need a supply of razors and soap of choice). What about bath towels, hand towels and wash cloths? Sure, you have some in your bathroom right now you say. “Yes, but...” I say. Do you have a plastic storage tub of them where you’d need them? Or are you planning on packing up your whole bathroom and relocating it “when and if the time comes”? Might be a good idea to have some in place now. And remember, all you who love great big fluffy towels, if you don’t have the luxury of a washer and dryer should there be no regular power, you’ll have wash those great big fluffy towels by hand (get lots of hand towels and wash cloths – way easier to wash and dry, especially in a UG).

We brush our teeth: How much extra toothpaste do you have on hand? (I don’t have enough – yikes!) And a few extra toothbrushes – how long will your current one last? What if you have to leave your house AND YOU FORGET YOUR TOOTHBRUSH???  Maybe consider toothbrush in emergency car kit, first aid kits, in that plastic tub with the towels and wash cloths. It will be way better to run out of toothpaste than run out of toothbrush for most people.

And you can always use baking soda to brush your teeth – I just bought a 13.5 pound bag of baking soda at Costco for something like $6. I am going to repackage it in mylar bags. A good book to get is Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous Fun and Frugal Uses.

We moisturize and makeup (well some of us do and some of us don’t and some do some): Sure, what does it matter if you have moisturizer? Or minimal makeup? Or for men maybe moisturizer and the after shave stuff? You would be surprised how important those things can become if the world around you is in chaos or even just greatly disrupted. These items not only are you nurturing your Self, but they can bring a sense of normalcy and stability if your world as you knew it has been disrupted. There are those who would argue, saying Oh you don’t need that stuff now, so who cares if things go crazy? You don’t really need to shave your face. You don’t need that moisturizer – get over it.

Yes, some may say that, but it has been proven, and is known in by most in the emergency management world just how important it can be for someone in the middle of a major disaster to be able to just brush their teeth, wash their hair, file their nails. Think about it – what if you didn’t have access to nail clippers or a nail file for 6 months. Sure you could use a rock, buy why not put together a couple into your supplies kit? [Note: the plastic see-through shoe boxes from Target/K-Mart/Wal-Mart make excellent storage boxes for the smaller incidentals like toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, etc.]

We dress: OK, I am going to venture (once again) into a seldom spoken of area or two here. First is socks (whew! at least I didn’t say ‘underwear’!)(Don’t get too comfortable, they’re after socks :o)

I think we have a bit of a tendency to take socks for granted. Heck, if we run low on socks we can just run over to Wal-Mart or Dillard’s Department Store and pick up more. But really, if you are someone who actually does physical labor – builds things, works in construction, or does farming – and you wear sturdy work boots with good sturdy socks – how long do your socks last? What if you wore holes in all of them because you only had a few pair? How fun will it be to rebuild your house, or till up a big garden space or do any real labor in those boots without socks?

And for folks that don’t do all that “labor-y” kind of stuff, so you wear nice stylish shoes that go with nice stylish clothes? So you might wear knee high nylons with your shoes. Okay.... but what if you get stranded and have to hike home?  What if you have to find that pair of tennis shoes that you bought for some picnic last year? If you actually have to live in the country and tramp around your ‘country property’, you will want sturdy shoes and PLENTY of socks – socks for summertime and WARM socks for winter time.

Oh, and if you were in a shelter situation and it was always 55 degrees, and you weren’t very active, and you tend towards cold feet anyways, you want warm socks, warm slippers and probably some UGG boots (all warm and toasty sheepskin boots that you don’t use socks with).

The thing is, since we have a drawer full of socks in the bedroom, we don’t often think of socks and their real importance, so we never put a bunch of good socks in with our “preparedness supplies”. And that is a shame, because if stuff really did hit the proverbial fan, the last thing on your mind is going to be going into the sock drawer in your bedroom and scooping a bunch of socks into a plastic bag. Am I right?

OK, underwear. Just take all that good reasoning above and apply it to underwear. Then go get extra and put it with all the socks you just bought, in another one of those plastic tubs. (Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?)

We eat breakfast: You stored oats. You can make oatmeal. Did you remember brown sugar? Do you put raisins in your oatmeal? Do you like cream on your oatmeal? Canned condensed milk makes a dandy addition to your oatmeal or your coffee. (You have, of course, stored some dishes and silverware? and the pots and pans? Because if you have to quickly evacuate your home, once again – you aren’t going to be grabbing pots, pans and dishes.)

Then what? Some free time... a LOT of free time.... sure there are a lot of things you could do or should do, but that only lasts for so long. Having a good supply of books is a great thing. Get books on How To Do Traditional Skills for one. In the 1940’s and 1950’s people knew how to do so many things that most of us now have had no experience with. Yes, many of us are relearning these skills to varying extents. Many of us would like to relearn these things but don’t really have the time at the moment.

Reading some of the books now would be beneficial so that you would realize what additional supplies you may want to get. Other books can be saved until you have that “extra time” allotted by a long term power outage. I say buy the books now while you can. Package them up so they stay good – I have found that the 4 gallon square buckets work great for storing books – write the names on the outside, bash on the lid and stack them up.

Think about getting a chess set, or board games – it all depends on your personal situation: Do you have kids? How old? Consider games that don’t make loud annoying noises ;o)  What about musical instruments? They could be as simple as a harmonica or a recorder (simple flute). Maybe you used to knit or crochet. Store up some yarn and needles and patterns. If things really did break down, you could knit mittens and hats for people, even afghans.

Another few things to consider: writing tablets (you may want to journal your experiences for posterity or just for personal reasons), pens, pencils (regular and colored), pencil sharpener, blank cards, scotch tape and/or thumb tacks (to put those cards up).


You get the idea. Get a little note pad that fits in your pocket or purse. Really watch your life one whole week. What are all the things that you interact with throughout your day? Make notes in your little notebook. You will see many things that I haven’t even mentioned, pertinent to your life, well-being and happiness. Find a friend who agrees to do this the same week as you, then at the end of the week, get together over a glass of wine and discuss the various things on your lists.

This is actually quite a fun process – things that we do without thinking now become exciting discoveries because we are watching for them, and looking at them with an eye for the future.

Teri Simpson
Optimum Preparedness



0 #3 Tanja 2011-08-16 21:53
Hiya Teri,

Thanks for all of your knowledge. This post made me *want* to bust out my supplies- mostly on hand- and organize.

Bless us all in the days to come. Keep the knowledge coming. And hugs till I get up there once again.

0 #2 Tara 2011-08-13 10:57
Teri, You do a fantastic job of getting us to think about what we are doing and using "in the moment" to make that moment not only survivable, but very graciously bearable. Thank you.
0 #1 Jo 2011-08-13 03:58
:-) You guys do such a great job, thankyou
but I especially appreciate Teri's practical down-to-earth advice in each of her contributions. And her humour just makes the learning so much more fun (easier)

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