This is geared towards the beginner prepper with limited funds, done in order to secure the most basic things first. This is based upon the classic electric-grid down scenario, which is the most likely, and could be caused by any number of things, from a blizzard/hurricane to an EMP pulse or even a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun, both of which would fry all electronics, even cars and cellphones.
WATER SECURITY: The importance of water absolutely cannot be stressed enough, it is essential to life, without it you die in about 3 days yet millions of people live without their own source of water. Reliant upon being hooked into the city or town water supply the cleanliness of which is dependent upon having a functional water processing plant, the funtionality of which is dependent upon a faulty and extremely vulnerable electrical grid. Most processing plants have back up generators and enough water stored to keep supplies going for a little while in an average localized emergency type situation, but in instances like an EMP detonated over the country or a CME from the sun everything electrical would be fried, and even if the water still flowed in such a situation it would get very dirty, very fast. Quite honestly, it is very hard for me to fathom how anyone can feel comfortable living without their own secure and reliable source of water.
The easiest way to begin to correct such a stupid lifestyle choice is to save one gallon milk jugs and vinegar jugs. Every time you have an empty one don’t throw it out, instead clean it out and then fill it with water from the tap, leaving about 3 inches of space at the top to allow for expansion of water so that the jugs don’t burst if they happen to freeze. Remember, in a grid down scenario there will be no real way to regulate indoor temperatures without electricity. Obviously though, if you live in a place such as Florida for example, where freezing is not likely to be an issue then just go ahead and fill it all the way to the top! Add 8 drops of regular unscented plain bleach to the jug and screw the cap on tight, shake a little to distribute the bleach, write the date on the outside of the jug with a permanent marker and store in a cool dark place, like at the back of a seldom used closet or in a corner of the basement. Although I don’t drink soda, and I don’t recommend that people do so, you can also save water the same way buy using empty 2 liter soda bottles, adding 4 drops of bleach instead of 8. Also, buy and store extra bleach, it’s a great multi-purpose disinfectant for more than just water!
((btw, you can also store water jugs in your freezer, filling up any extra space, especially in a chest freezer! and use them to keep your food cold at the beginning of the grid-down situation and then once fully melted you can drink the water.))
Another thing you can do, of course, is to simply buy water and store it. One gallon per person per day, store at the very least 3 DAYS worth, for a family of 5 that would be 15 GALLONS and this is just BARE MINIMUM, this does not include water for washing dishes, clothes, or bodies. Three gallons per person per day would be more ideal, so three days supply for a family of five would be 45 GALLONS! (personally, when I lived in suburbia, dependent upon the tap for water, I always stored 50 GALLONS MINIMUM.)
Even then that, to me, always seems so woefully insufficient. Personally, a secure clean water source is something that I would spare no expense on especially if I lived in a place where I was dependent upon the tap. For me, a high quality industrial strength filter, something like a Big Berkey or Berkey Light, along with the white fluoride filters (which also filters out heavy metals and other poisons like arsenic) and an extra set of the black filters, is an ABSOLUTE must have!
This combined with some type of water catchment system, or at the very minimum at least a bunch of extra clean buckets for catching rain water and then feeding the rain water through the Berkey (filter for drinking and cooking but the water can be used “as is” for washing) would be a lot more secure and actually I would do ALL of these: store water in jugs and have a filter and have a way to catch rain water and I would have ALL of that accomplished before buying ANY extra food stores, throwing all available extra cash towards solving the water issue first and foremost, it really is that important!
Plus, don’t forget that, in an emergency, you can also empty the water from the water heater and if you have warning and the forethought to do so, such as in the case of an incoming blizzard/ice storm or other large storm like a hurricane, you can also fill up your bathtub and fill up any other large containers like your water catchment buckets that I suggested before (Lowe’s sells 5 gallon buckets for about $3.79 each, at least that was the price last time I checked) or large stockpots/canner etc. And in the case of a blizzard, which is something very likely to occur where I live in the mountains, don’t forget that you can also melt snow for water!
Extra Credit: Also have a portable filter, something like a LifeStraw or something equivalent to that, for each member of the family.
2. KEEPING CLEAN: This isn’t something that I see covered very often but it is so important! In a grid down situation with very limited water it’s gonna be difficult for most people to maintain their usual first world standards of cleanliness. First to go, right off the bat, will be the daily hot water showers along with the continuous ease of clothes washing and daily clothing changes. Without electricity and an ample source of water such luxuries are far too wasteful to be indulged in on a daily basis.
Better learn NOW to accept the fact in your brain that it’ll be very strict sponge baths in a grid-down situation, what I call “The Triple P” Sponge Bath: Pits, Privates and Presentation (ie. appearance, which means face and any visible dirtiness on arms legs feet etc.) and the same water used for the sponge bath can then be used for washing your underwear and socks. Scrub them well by rubbing the sides of cloth against each other, then rinse them in clean water, wring them out really really well and hang to dry, preferably outdoors where the sun will hit them and disinfect them. Then put on fresh pairs of each keeping your stock rotating between wearing and drying.
This would be your BARE MINIMUM daily cleanliness ritual most likely performed at night before going to sleep. You won’t be changing your clothes until they are far too visibly dirty or stanky to keep on any longer, good idea then is to NOT sleep in your regular clothes but, after your sponge bath and changing into clean socks and underwear, put on some type of pajama for bed, just sweatpants and a t-shirt will suffice for most people kept exclusively for bedtime wear, along with a scarf tied around your head or knit cap in the wintertime. This will help keep your bedsheets clean as frequent changing of sheets just won’t be practical in this new grid-down world. Besides, sleeping in nothing but your underwear probably isn’t the best idea as the odds are greatly increased that something might happen at night where you may have to suddenly flee or defend yourself or even just to run out the back door and shoot some predator trying to eat your chickens. Sleeping with shoes and gun nearby and ready to go is ALWAYS a good idea!
Besides stocking up on extras of your regular soap or body wash, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant etc. another good thing is Dr. Bronner’s Natural Soap. It is very liquid and concentrated, a tiny bit goes a very long way; just a teaspoon or two in a gallon of water to wash the body and a couple articles of clothing, plus it doesn’t have to be rinsed off making it especially useful for sponge baths!
Cleanliness is so important because people are toxic. I remember as a younger teen, at my church summer camp, an especially obese girl sweating so profusely outside in the hot humid air, she was just sweating and sweating and sweating, and then seemingly out of nowhere, she broke out into a horrible case of head to toe hives! Apparently her sweat was so toxic that she was allergic to it!
Such a reaction really isn’t all that surprising, sweat is the body’s preferred way to rid itself of toxins, especially heavy metals. However, the majority of americans are rarely active enough to get a good sweat going, but in a grid-down situation they won’t have a choice! LOL I can easily envision the same thing happening to all the millions of obese americans so used to sittin’ on ass in front of the TV or computer screen all day inside their electricity fueled climate controlled domiciles. In a grid-down situation without air conditioning, plus the added increase in manual labor that naturally follows, people will be sweating out ALL KINDS of toxins! Which makes it even more imperative that people keep themselves clean or they make suffer secondary afflictions, such as head to toe hives, an allergic reaction to their own toxic sweat!
Proper trash disposal also falls under the topic of keeping clean. Forget about garbage collection, you’ll be on your own in a grid-down situation. I know about, and have read many times in various preparedness articles, the reccommendation that people get paper products as part of their preps. Paper plates, cups, plastic utensils etc. with the reasoning that it will make everything easier at first without having to wash dishes, however, I could NOT disagree more! YOU will have to dispose of all that trash!!
Just imagine the amount of trash that gets hauled away from your house each week, now imagine that trash just sitting around in your yard, in your house, on the street corner. It’s gonna get real ugly, real fast! Bag upon bag of food covered paper plates, coffee stained cups, cruddy utensils, cardboard and plastic packaging, dirty diapers, bloody tampons etc. attracting all KINDS of things: flies, roaches, vermin, stray dogs, all spreading filth and disease.
This is how plagues start people.
Now, under normal conditions, the logical thing would be to burn your trash to dispose of it, but in an extended and possibly permanent grid-down situation this may not be wise. While you and I may have been smart enough to prepare there will be MILLIONS of people who did not and within about three days, more or less, those people are gonna be running out of food and doing anything and everything, including hurting, killing and stealing from others, in order to secure their next meal.
A giant smoking trash fire in your backyard might as well be a dinner bell, if you have something to burn it means you had something to eat which means you might still have more (especially if they can literally SEE the empty food packaging and paper plates covered in food residue as they burn..) and once people figure this out they’ll be all over you like zombies in a horror flick.
Ideally you want to keep the trash build-up as minimized as possible which definitely means no paper products. Instead store plenty of dishwashing soap, I buy this in big one gallon bottles from Sam’s Club for about $5 a gallon, and wash everything by hand, reusing the plates, cups, bowls, pots and pans that you already own (wow, what a novel idea! *rolls eyes*).
Instead of stocking disposable products like toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, tampons, or menstrual pads…which also tend to be bulky and take up space that can be used for more important things like food…store plenty of extra washcloths, hankerchiefs, handtowels, regular sized towels and cloth diapers along with sufficient amounts of liquid laundry detergent to wash them (I buy all these things, except the cloth diapers, hotel/restaurant commercial use high quality white colored in bulk, 24-36 ct. packages, from Sam’s Club). One more reason why it is imperative to have your own water source or, at the very least, some way of catching and storing rainwater. Something like this system <—-Clickable link! an all in one starter kit for about $100.
Plus water collection is a lot quieter and attracts a lot less attention than a giant smoking trash fire! And even though the tap might stop running (and if it keeps running it might not be trustworthy, at least not for drinking and cooking purposes…) the drains should continue to drain into the sewer for quite sometime, which means that you can also use the collected water, most likely the grey-water leftover from washing laundry, to manually flush the toilet as well. Although it is also a good idea to have a camp toilet as back up. You could also use a 5 gallon bucket with fitted seat, a scoop of dirt and then a handful of grass between layers of waste will help it begin to decompose until you can bury it. Having extra shovels is always a good thing too!
For the most part, the food items that are part of your food storage should be removed from packaging and stored in permanent containers like glass mason jars or food grade heavy duty plastic, preferably with an air-tight lid, once these containers empty they would just be washed and stored away in hopes of being re-filled with food again in (hopefully) the not too distant future. Other trash, like aluminium food cans, can be washed, labels removed, and kept as well. If the grid-down situation becomes permanent the aluminium in those cans then becomes a resource which could be broken down and remade into all sorts of useful items.
Same thing goes for other food containers, especially those things stored in glass, but plastic is fine too, like peanut butter jars for example, which tend to have really nice fitting lids. I routinely buy pickles, those big fat kosher dill monster sized ones in those huge 1 gallon glass jars, NOT for the pickles mind you (my homemade homegrown ones are at least 10 times better..) but for the JAR! $4.50 for a nice big one gallon glass jar is a pretty damn good deal if you ask me, it only takes about two days for my kids to eat them all and then the jar is MINE. I store all kinds of bulk organic grains, organic whole and ground spices, and organic dried herbs in those jars and then vaccum seal with a Pump -n- Seal <—-Clickable Link! which requires no electricity to run! We’ve had one for going on ten years now and it is an indispensable part of our prepping.
Any other clean paper and plastic material, without food residue or bodily fluids on them, can be safely stored in a garbage bag inside a garbage can with a tight fitting lid, maybe store the garbage can in the garage or basement but if you are going to do this the trash MUST be clean, not even one crumb of food allowed or else you’ll be attracting mice or rats! Obviously though, the moment there is opportunity to do so, you would want to burn all of this. After about a week or so, when the smell of riotous burning cities (and they WILL be burning by that point!) can provide cover for the scent and in the middle of the night when it’s harder for the smoke to be seen from afar. Burning indoors in a fireplace or woodstove is ideal. If burnt out of doors try and contain it in something like a burn barrel and keep the fire small to minimize the amount of light it gives off so as not to attract unwanted attention.
That’s it for now, I’ve tried my best to give a basic overview of what I know, if you have any questions please leave them in the comment section. The next part in this series will be about heating, cooking and energy economy.