When moving from California to Oregon, we loaded a full-sized moving truck with all of our stuff. It's always amazing how much we accumulate when we're trying not to. As we loaded, it became apparent to my husband and those helping us that if society collapsed and all of the toilet paper companies shut their doors, ours was the place to come for such a luxury. I had over a dozen Costco packages of toilet paper stashed throughout the house ... probably more like two dozen ... my husband would say even more. It became a joke when packing things tight, "Oh, won't toilet paper fit here?" And when checking to see if cupboards and closets were empty, "Check to see if there is any toilet paper left."
All I can say is I am perfectly fine not EVER running out of toilet paper. But, being prepared is more than that.
Before we started homesteading, we "prepped." I didn't know that term at the time and it was never getting ready for a zombie apocalypse (still isn't since the only zombies in the apocalypse will occur if everyone comes unplugged and has to learn how to function in the real physical world). My grandparents were farmers during the Great Depression and came from thrifty hard-working families. They had a cellar full of buckets of wheat and canned fruits and vegetables. Of course they were well-rounded and had stashes of hard candy.
I grew up with food and goods stored in our house, but nothing like the elaborate stockpiles I've seen in underground bunkers on TV. I'd like a bunker, don't think I'd ever use it, there are more important things to spend my time and money on, and my husband seems to think it's crossing a line ... the same line that has gas masks and radiation suits on the other side. Maybe some day ...
So if we don't prepare for a zombie apocalypse, why do it? Growing up, my father was without a job for a while when transition from the military to flying for a commercial airline. He had some money coming in, but not enough. The storage helped bridge the gap in his income. My husband was laid off for a short time and we did the same. Where we lived experienced a rice shortage once and it became quite expensive and usually sold out. We had rice as usual.
What I find to be the most convenient most of the time is that I basically have my own little market when my storage is full. If we use something up, we don't have to make the 30-minute or longer trip in to one of our neighboring towns to buy one thing. Run out of deodorant or sugar, there's some in storage and the used item goes onto my shopping list to be replaced.
Being prepared is not difficult to do. It doesn't need to be expensive or a burden. I find it does go better with a little planning. My goal is to have one year's worth of food and personal products. Having recently moved onto the farm in a state of limbo (house under construction), I don't have those stores built up at the moment. Still, that's my goal.
Food should be non-perishable or long-shelf-life items that you and your family eat normally. For example, we love canned fruit (and fresh) with breakfast. I have canned peaches, pears, and other fruit we regularly eat and replenish from our stores. We also use cream of mushroom and chicken soup concentrates we store. I grind and bake bread from wheat. I ate hard red growing up and have a taste for soft white. We also have rice, oatmeal (old-fashioned), some powdered milk, and canned vegetables.
Food storage should be food you normally eat. When starting, one method is to make a list of non-perishable items you use. When you have a box of cereal go empty, instead of adding one to your shopping list, get two or three. If you use a bag of rice, buy a much larger bag (or bucket) or several. Each time you use something and replace it with two or three instead of just one, your grocery budget will grow. However, it's a gradual way to store up foods your family is eating. (Don't be tempted to buy expiring food on discount to add to your stores.)
This goes for non-food items, also. When we were in Oregon and a storm would blow in, a lot of trees would block roads to our part of the coast. Store shelves would go empty and gas stations would run low on fuel. Sometimes we had no power - ten days to two weeks happened every few years to our part of the woods. One thing I thought was really weird is people would rush the stores and buy out toilet paper and water. Really, did they live almost day to day on TP?
I tried to pay attention to how often a bulk pack of toilet paper was used up by our family. I then multiplied that out for a year's supply. Each time one pack was used up, I bought two. Or, even more often. Same goes for feminine products (definitely don't want to improvise there), shampoo and conditioner, soap, deodorant, shaving products, styling products, and even make up and some lotions. I aim to store several types of pain relievers, cold medicine, allergy medication, bandages, ointments, and such. Also dishwashing and laundry detergents, dishwashing soap, and household cleaners.
If you choose to store weapons and ammunition, that's up to you. We also have other resources: live animals we can butcher to eat, large freezers of food, dairy animals, beehives, and we'll add a root cellar, cheese cave, and fish ponds. Growing up, my family stored things we didn't regularly eat, such as MREs (meals ready to eat), but I don't do that now. They are especially good for car or 72-hour emergency kits, which are like BOBs (bug out bags).
I recommend starting gradually. Have a goal of how much you want of different things. Once you reach those goals, just replenish your storage as you use it. Use the oldest things first so you rotate your storage. There are some online food storage calculators you can use. I recommend them as guidelines to let you know if you're in the ballpark.
As you increase your stores, you will need more space. We have longer-term storage that isn't as convenient but holds more, such as in a garage or basement. We also have a pantry and kitchen cupboards that we restock from the larger storage area. When we buy new things, they go in the garage or basement storage, not straight into the pantry.
I also recommend having a savings account. Try to start out with one month's worth of money saved up and gradually increase that amount. You can do this in cash, at your regular financial institution, or at another bank where you can't easily overdraft and use up your savings. Having savings also helps you look more attractive if you go to secure a loan in the future.
Being prepared doesn't mean being weird or waiting for some unlikely or imaginary end of the world. It's a security blanket that you get to use while having some for a rainy day. You can do this if you live in the country, city, or in between. I highly recommend some sort of preparedness, even if it's only for one to three months worth of storage. It very likely will give you a little break if things get tight. We're so accustomed to it we find it is comforting.
Wife to Brandon, mother to Tess and Liam, farmer, entrepreneur, cook & baker, nurse, and accountant who loves to try new things, travel, and work toward greater self-reliance.