The following article has been generously contributed by Tom Chatham, author of the newly released book The American Dream Lost – Economic Survival Strategy for a New Paradigm.
Many people are now waking up to the possibility that the future may not provide the great recovery we all expect it to be. They are begining to sense that something is wrong with the economy and it will not get better. Their first thought is the question, What do I do to protect myself and my family? They usually answer that question with the thought, maybe these preppers aren’t so crazy after all. How do you prep with very little money?
Many start answering this question with buy this and buy that but that is not the first step to prepping. Every situation is different so your preps need to reflect your situation. The first thing you need to do is get a legal pad or a note book to write in and answer these basic questions.
- Do you own or rent?
- Do you live in an apartment or a home with a yard?
- Is your home paid for or could you lose it if your income were cut off?
- Do you have some place else to go if things get too bad or you lose your home?
- Can you plant a garden or fruit trees in your yard?
- Can you own livestock or even a few chickens?
- How much can you afford per month to buy supplies?
These questions are just a start but they will determine what you will need to get by in a difficult situation.
An apartment dweller will have no need to get seeds and garden tools immediately while it might make perfect sense to someone in the country with a few acres of their own land. If you live in the suburbs and have a small yard you might be able to plant some fruit trees but what happens if you lose your home to foreclosure? Would the money for those trees have been spent better somewhere else? You need to decide what your emergency will involve and what your basic needs will be because of it.
Lets look at an apartment dweller for a minute. They depend on water from the city, food from the grocery store, power for heat, light and cooking and sanitation, all of which has to be brought into the city or pumped out of the city on a continuous basis. If all of these systems shut down for any length of time you are now stranded in a cave on a cliff with a long staircase to traverse each way. Assuming that everyone is in the same situation as you and you are not evicted from your home, what supplies will you need to shelter in place and how long will they last?
Being in an apartment you are limited to the types of supplies you may be able to store. For instance it would be a waste of money to invest in a generator if you know you can’t store a 30 day supply of gas. The two primary supplies you need no matter where you are involve water and food. In a system wide failure water would be the first thing you would run out of. You can only live about three days without water so it is a critical storage item. The only problem with water is that it’s heavy and takes up a lot of room if you want a several month supply. For someone in an apartment this is out of the question so how do you get around this? The solution has to be to store a small supply and have a plan to resupply what you need. The cheapest way to go is to get a supply of five gallon plastic food grade buckets to store water in. As a secondary storage device get a few thirty gallon trash cans and some food grade liners for them. These can be filled just prior to an emergency if you have any warning. Another secondary storage medium would be your bath tub. This can hold fifty gallons or more to last you quite a while. In addition to storage containers you need to get a good water filter. A gravity fed system is good but a portable reverse osmosis system is better. You may need to forage for water during a long emergency and you don’t want to contaminate your clean buckets with unfiltered water that you will have to carry home. Also you will need to filter water in your tub or other container that may not be completely clean. The reason to have some five gallon buckets is that you may need to carry water up to your apartment and more than five gallons is more than most people would be able to handle at one time.
The next thing you need to have on hand is a supply of food. The cheapest things to start off with that will keep you fed are the following items. You might want to get 3lbs of rice, 3lbs of dried beans, 5lbs of cornmeal, 42oz of oatmeal, 2lbs of powdered milk, 26oz of mash potato flakes, 30 packages of ramen noodles and 12 cans of vegetables. All of these things will cost you about $35.00 and provide one person with three meals a day for 30 days. This list is meant to prevent desperation on your part for the least amount of money not necessarily a perfectly balanced menu. A good multivitamin can fill in any shortfalls of this menu. This short list provides you with a reasonable amount of food for a very small investment and all of it will fit in two five gallon containers to allow for easy transport if you decide to relocate with it.
Another item you might want to get depending on your location is a good quality cold weather sleeping bag. This is a must if you are living in a cold climate without a dependable heat source. You can survive in a very cold place for a very long time if you have the means to stay warm and get a good nights sleep.
The next item you should have is a propane stove, at least a single burner unit, and at least a one pound canister of propane for each week for the duration you plan for. This will allow you the means to heat water and cook food and also provide heat on a limited basis. To make your fuel go as far as possible you also want to have a small pressure cooker so you can cook things like beans and rice quickly.
For light you can have a 100 hour liquid paraffin candle that will provide you with 3 hours of light every night for a month. You want to have a large box of strike anywhere matches and a disposable lighter to light your stove and candle. A hand crank LED light with a radio and cell phone charging port would be a good addition to this kit.
The final thing you would need is a sanitation system. With the power off, you might be able to flush your toilet with your water stores but the pumps that carry the sewage away will not be working so the sewer lines will eventually back up. To avoid this you need to have a portable toilet with disposable linings that you can utilize until the power returns or you relocate. A simple totable toilet and a few liners can be had for under thirty dollars. You can also get disposable liners that fit your regular toilet bowl that you can use.
Depending on how much you spend on your sleeping bag and pressure cooker, you can get everything listed here for around three hundred dollars. For that price you would be able to shelter in place for a month. If you increase the amount of food, propane and candles you get, you could shelter in place for months.
Security is not covered here because it is something that could fill an article of its own. These are the basic things you should have for an apartment if you plan to stay in place for any length of time. These limited supplies can be the difference between remaining safe and healthy and becoming desperate. The small quantity of supplies listed here would be easy to relocate with even if you had to travel on foot. In the next article we’ll talk about expanded preps for apartments and things for single family homes.
Tom Chatham is the author of the newly released book The American Dream Lost – Economic Survival Strategy for a New Paradigm.