I’m writing today to let you know that stocking your pantry for emergencies doesn’t have to be scary and overwhelming. I’ve seen a few “gloom and doom” hyped up videos talking about food shortages, inflation, skyrocketing food costs, and food supply chain issues.
Anyone who has been sucked into a Youtube prepper video can get a serious case of “analysis paralysis” – meaning you end up… doing nothing.
I’m going to hold your hand and walk you through a few things and keep emergency food prepping in perspective. There is an entry level for everyone. When you’re ready, you can advance to more long-term food storage (or not!).
What is a prepper?
What is a “prepper”? In its simplest terms, a prepper is “a person who prepares something or prepares for something” – like preparing a meal or going on a trip. That’s not so scary, right? The term prepper in the last decades has become associated with someone who is preparing for a catastrophic event both for food and supplies.
Catastrophic events can be frightening, being prepared is a way to empower people to be ready. Shifting away from feeling helpless to actionable steps is a much healthier mindset.
Are preppers crazy? People often think of preppers as extremist or belonging to religious groups, but active preppers are for the majority, very normal, rational people. There will always be a very small percentage of persons in the general public that exhibit signs of paranoia or states of insanity. Their mental condition may attach or hyperfocus on worst-case scenarios which extends to emergency preparedness.
What is the difference between a prepper and a survivalist? A prepper is different from a survivalist who may be focused on wilderness survival, or in a situation where more than food is involved. The terms are sometimes interchanged, which adds to the confusion, and people can be both preppers and survivalists. Survivalist actions can be fueled by the thought of extreme situations, such as political turmoil or facing extremist groups.
What type of person is prepared? Preppers are everywhere and of every economic status. Stereotyping a prepper as a rural person and separated from society is incorrect. If anything, personality types that tend to be organized, detail oriented, and/or strong leaders may be drawn to the benefits of emergency food prepping.
Prepping accelerated to mainstream in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic which broke out early in 2020. This extreme health crisis forced governments to aggressively encourage people to physically distance from others, in addition to closing or limiting access to public places. This led to a “domino” effect that affected food chains, jobs, and income.
Being ready for this event gave validation to prepared preppers. Those who were caught off guard (for example, empty shelves that once held toilet paper) began to realize that some things in life should not be dismissed – such as emergency preparedness.
Security is a shared goal for everyone
The feeling of security and the satisfaction of readiness is what a “prepper” embraces. There are all levels of preppers, and there is certainly one for people who are scared to death of stocking food – who want to – but don’t know where to start. You don’t have to wear plaid shirts, have pigs rooting in the backyard, feel a need to install a chicken coop, or start homesteading video channels.
The common thread is people love their families and want them to be taken care of in an emergency. Emergency can include weather-related events, loss of job, health crisis, financial problems, life changes, among several other unexpected scenarios. It is in response to these examples that we are more likely stockpiling food for.
Is it too late to start prepping?
It is never too late to start prepping. Prepping is a learned skill that improves over time. It takes experience to understand all aspects of it. Beginners can stock emergency food on small scales and slowly grow it to a level they are comfortable with.
To provide an illustration, new parents are overwhelmed with all the details of taking care of a baby – especially on outings. In a few weeks, the parents turn into pros, realizing that the diaper bag needs diapers, wet wipes, a change of clothes, maybe some medicine, toy distractions, and baby food. Over the next years, the parents continue to be ready, with not only emergency food snacks, but the best healthy snacks that their kids love. They have morphed into capable, prepared adults.
Being ready applies to everyone. This includes senior citizens and people living alone. Anyone experiencing their first apartment, or living alone due to death or divorce may need to learn pantry management skills, even late in life. If daily eating is a goal (and it is) limited food items on a shelf are not going to cut it.
Why you should start prepping
I’ll share a humorous beginner food story. When my husband and I were newly married, some friends were coming to visit. We intentionally went shopping and “staged” our previously empty refrigerator so it looked like we knew what we were doing. Even more sadly, one of our very first meals was a stir fry dish. I honestly thought all you had to do was throw things together and they would taste great, especially a stir fry. It tasted horrible and we had to throw it out!
Today, we are both good cooks (actually, my husband is amazing). We’re both into food preservation and it gives us great pride. What improved our food skills to where they are today is practice. Every meal is a chance to become a better cook. Every day is a chance to become a better prepper.
You should start prepping:
- to be prepared for a crisis
- to learn the skills of prepping
- to learn to set realistic goals
- to learn what works and doesn’t work
- to build confidence for bigger goals
This all takes time, which is the strongest argument for starting emergency food stockpiling.
Where should a prepper start?
Starting a prepper food pantry can be overwhelming. Educating yourself is a good place to start. Everything Pantry is currently building beginner food stockpile checklists to remove some of the fear of starting.
Here are overarching themes when starting a prepper pantry:
- estimating food quantities per person, including water
- being familiar with expiration dates
- knowing preservation choices (canned, dried, dehydrated, frozen, etc.)
- knowledge about food storage environments
- being prepared for reheating food in absence of electricity
- being aware of variety of diet, including balanced nutrition
It won’t be long before you start asking questions, such as “what is the shelf life of SPAM?” Natural questions like this will lead to others. One of the easiest ways to start stockpiling is just buying double of food items when grocery shopping, especially when there are sales. Don’t buy food items you don’t like and would never eat. One small step at a time, you will arrive at your perfect prepper pantry.
Are there shortcuts to emergency food preparedness?
There are emergency food companies that have put kits together for beginner food preppers. These companies are typically located in the western United States. If you’re curious why, it is because the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints have established communities in those parts of the U.S. A component of the church beliefs emphasizes readiness in emergency situations. I suspect that in the post-Covid 19 world, more emergency food companies will become more common throughout other parts of the country.
Kits come in bug out bags (3 day supplies), 3-month, 6-month, 1 year and beyond (to an amazing 20-30+ years). All of this involves a financial commitment, especially if you are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Focus on the short term, such as a 30 day supply, until you are ready to push out to more long-term storage.
Most of the extreme long-term storage solutions involve freeze-dried food that needs to be rehydrated. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to practice preparing a few meals from your freeze dried stash – that’s another skill set you will be happy to have some experience with.
Beginners are winners! Don’t be intimidated by emergency food prepping or let it paralyze you into inaction. Start small and grow your skills. Enjoy life and don’t let preparedness consume you!