It seems that some people get a visceral reaction when they hear the word prepper or survivalist. Sensationalized “reality” TV shows like Doomsday Preppers has caused some people to assume everyone who has a well-stocked pantry and 30 rolls of toilet paper is some kind of nutjob. Mentioning words or phrases like home canning, solar oven, root cellar, or a back-up generator can make people think you’re anti-social and prefer to live on the fringes of society. These distorted ideas of those who are prepared for disaster/economic crisis/wildfires/food shortages/or…I don’t know…a pandemic (or, as it turns out, all of the above) can result in a shit ton of people buying up all the toilet paper and bleach in one fail swoop—or complaining (and blaming) because they find themselves unprepared.
I grew up a military brat. We lived in places like the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast where hurricanes were an annual tradition. We also lived in Upstate New York where snow would accumulate to the bottom of my second-story bedroom window. At one point we lived on the San Andreas fault in California. And, we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska which had darkness, snow, and cold that could kill a person quickly. I was 16 when we moved to Alaska and we actually had to take classes on prepping…mostly to be prepared if our vehicle broke down on the remote roads we traveled in 40 below weather (yes, -40 degrees F)…blankets, batteries, water, flashlights, steel wool (they taught us how to make a fire with a C battery and steel wool), socks, gloves, boots, a shovel, cat litter, flares. All of this was way before cell phones existed which, in retrospect, has helped us in our preparedness now.
We still have quite a few friends and followers who travel full or part-time in RVs (or on sailboats). The ones who I really admire are “prepared” in a multitude of ways. (The ones who aren’t prepared at least have cell phones to call on the prepared ones for help). They have spare parts and vehicle supplies (like oil, brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid), spare blankets, and maybe ceramic heaters for an unexpected cold snap, spare fuses, spare light bulbs, spare batteries, a backup charger for phones or laptops. They might have spare mechanical parts like a bilge pump or starter. Some carry spare internet access like a t-mobile phone and an AT&T phone and a Google Fi phone, and more. I think, I hope, they all carry more than one pair of underpants. When we fulltimed we also carried a bug-out-bag (also called a G.O.O.D. bag for Get Out Of Dodge) which had copies of our most important documents as well as a first-aid kit, freshwater tabs, rain jackets, etc.
Now we find ourselves living on our small rescue farm about 15 miles from the nearest, rural town. That might not seem far but on a wintery, ice-covered road it can feel like a 100-mile white knuckle drive. We’ve been snowed in. We’ve had ice storms and monsoons that made “running to town” out of the question. And, because we have extremely limited shopping, we saw the grocery shelves go bare in the early months of the Covid-19 Pandemic. I’ll tell you what, I was pretty freakin’ happy to have been accidentally prepared for this crisis and we are working hard to become even more prepared for any future crises. Not because we are paranoid or freakishly pessimistic but because it makes sense (what?!?). At the time of this writing, several European countries (France, Germany, Poland and Spain) are imposing Covid lockdown restrictions once again. The last time this happened pretty much every country in the world followed suit. So yeah, being prepared might be a brilliant idea.
What Did We Have On Hand at the onset of Covid-19?
1- Toilet Paper
I wrote about it before and even offered a discount link on our website but I still saw friends freaking out when they couldn’t find toilet paper. They were angry…very angry…that other people also didn’t have toilet paper and bought the store out. One friend ended up getting price-gouged by an online reseller (I think she paid $40+ for 12 rolls of toilet paper). In my quest to reduce plastics I made the switch to Who Gives a Crap a few years ago. The best bang for my buck is the 48 roll box that gets auto-delivered every 6 months. You can choose how frequently you get deliveries and even postpone it if you are over-flowing with TP.
When the Great TP Shortage of 2020 hit we had 38 rolls of toilet paper on our shelf. A month into the pandemic the company was sold out. A few months later, when they had more stock, they messaged us (since we were regular subscription holders) and were offered first dibs on replenishment. But we still had plenty of TP and were able to decline delivery so it could go to someone more in need. (Note: A few years ago we installed $30 bidets to both of our toilets to reduce TP usage. It’s obviously been a big help).
2- Dish Soap (Cleaning Supplies)
cheap thrifty and have limited access to recycling (and most recycling was non-existent in the early months of the pandemic). In February, after trying a dish soap bar (expensive and “filmy”) and wasting a bunch of money on “eco-friendly” brands in small plastic bottles, I opted to purchase a 5-gallon bucket of commercial dishwashing soap for a really good price. It was delivered to my door and should last me years. I just refill one of my old dish detergent bottles whenever needed. Once the bucket is empty I’ll have 1000 uses for it so it won’t end up in the landfill.
I also did a little video in March explaining that it is possible to clean your house with dish soap (and blow your nose on fabric scraps). You don’t need 8 different cleaners and 5 different scrubs to make your house presentable or to kill all the germs. We’ve really been duped. Of course, I’m not saying that dish soap is optimal for some surfaces so don’t hold me accountable if your floor looks dull or some special finish you have on your furniture starts to fade. But come on…you don’t need to freak out because someone bought all of the Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbena All Purpose Cleaner and now you’re doomed to live in a pig stye.
3- Laundry Detergent/Dish Washer Pods
I have on hand, about 4 years worth of Dropps Laundry Detergent and Dish Washer Pods that were delivered to my doorstep last winter. In a previous blog post, I wrote about how I paid $67.50 for 804 laundry pods and 804 dishwasher pods. That’s $67 total! I don’t know if that deal is still available but I do know that Dropps continues to offer great cleaning products that are available as a subscription and in bulk quantities. Use this link to order!!
4- Dry Food Goods
We live in an area famous for dried beans (pinto, black, bolita, anasazi, Colorado) as well as popcorn and cornmeal. I’m a vegetarian. Clark loves rice and prefers it over pasta or potatoes. So, for us, it’s a good idea and pretty damn economical to have beans and rice on hand…in bulk. I’ve found my Instant Pot makes perfect cooked beans without the need to soak overnight. At any given time we probably have 40 pounds of beans and 30 pounds of rice on hand.
We also live near the Cortez flour mill whose Blue Bird brand is known throughout the country. Because I bake I usually have a 50-pound bag of it on hand as well as 10 pounds of their whole wheat flour. They also sell a killer breakfast cereal called Germade that is so cheap I grab 5 pounds whenever it starts to run low. It’s kinda like Cream of Wheat and keeps better than boxed cereal.
As many of you know, I used to bake 20+ loaves of sourdough every week for the Farmer’s Market. So, I developed my baking skills over the years and, as long as I have flour and water, I can bake a loaf of bread anywhere. Some of you might remember that I did a series on IGTV showing how to go from nothing to a loaf of sourdough bread in about 7 days…and create a starter you can use forever. Find my YouTube sourdough tutorial here or read the blog post here.
During the first couple of months of the pandemic, there was a shortage of yeast. Sourdough eliminates the need for commercial, store-bought yeast…even if it does mean people will look at you with disdain for your crazy “prepper” ways! Of course, the other half of the people will be contrary and refuse to learn how to make sourdough because everyone (insert eye-roll) was on the Covid Baking Bandwagon.
Note: I did, however, have a one-pound bag of Active Dry Yeast in my freezer because, well, it was
cheaper more cost-effective to buy it in bulk and I occasionally bake yeasted bread.
I’m a big fan of Tiffany and her blog Don’t Waste the Crumbs. She holds a Grocery Budget Bootcamp twice a year but offers a ton of grocery saving advice for free on her blog and Facebook page (click here to learn 38 Ways to Save Money on Food Year Round). Through her, I’ve learned some great tips on saving money while stocking up on the things we buy regularly. This can mean figuring out the pattern of when a particular item goes on sale to building an Amazon Panty or Subscribe and Save monthly auto-delivery. You can also check out the podcast, Living Free in Tennessee with Nicole Sauce who has done a series of talks on Pantry Management precisely for being prepared.
5- Meat (if you eat it)
We purposefully and mindfully chose to live where we live. You might remember us from our full-time RV travels (from 2012-2016). Besides seeing all.the.things. we were on a quest to find a new place to call home. High on our list of priorities was to live in a farming community with the ability to either grow our own food or to find it within a very short distance…preferably from friends and neighbors. During those early months of the pandemic, when stories of food shortages and photos of empty grocery store displays started circulating we still had a rather large network of local farmers with plenty of farm-raised vegetables, meat, eggs, fresh milk, butter, yogurt, and cream available. Best of all, we were able to help support those families by purchasing from them just when many were losing their main source of income with the shutdown.
Of course, I realize not everyone wants to live remotely or in such rural areas. Through a podcast, I learned something great about a company called Butcher Box. I know you’ve probably heard of them but here’s something I think makes them pretty impressive. Once the realization sunk in that the lockdown was going to be extended for who knows how long…and rumors started up about a meat shortage (which was really more of a meat processing plant issue and USDA red tape) Butcher Box stopped accepting new memberships to ensure they could continue to provide for their existing members. To my understanding, not one subscriber had any disruption in their delivery. Butcher Box has since started accepting new members again. You can use this link to get $15 off your first box if you’d like to try them out.
5- Pet/Animal Feed
Thanks to our very generous friends and followers, we ended up with a lot of donations this past spring (pre-Covid) that allowed us to stock up on animal feed. Our philosophy has been that if we’re going to town to buy feed we might as well stock up. The peace of mind that comes with a well-stocked feed room is worth the upfront expense. Plus, by buying in bulk we were able to save money on gas and on the actual cost of the hay and feed since the pandemic did cause prices to go up as supply went down. We also have our dog and cat food on auto-ship through Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program. Not a Prime Member yet? Click here for a 30- day free trial! We maximize our savings (15% off) each month and have everything shipped to our doorstep. It was easy enough to add an extra bag or two when we saw shortages occurring to create a buffer.
6- Fresh Grown Greens, Sprouts, and Microgreens
Thanks to Covid, I started to really work on my indoor gardening skills. I’ve been able to continuously grow lettuces, chard, herbs, and other greens in a very simple hydroponics system called the Kratky Method. It’s ridiculously easy and has been very rewarding. You can check out my YouTube Kratky tutorials here.
I’ve also gotten good at growing sprouts as well as microgreens. These are so freakin’ simple that I don’t know why everyone isn’t doing it! Sprouts and microgreens are packed with nutrients and are considered living foods. Any excess I might have are happily gobbled up by the chickens, turkeys, and even the goats…giving them an extra boost of vitamins as well. Plus, it makes them feel special to get yummy treats. Check out my Sprouting Video here and my Microgreen Video here. As most of you probably know, the desire for fresh veggies often creates the need for extra trips to the grocery store each month so by growing our own we didn’t have to risk exposing ourselves to others or deplete the already stressed produce sections of our local markets.
7- Preserved Foods (that we’ll actually eat)
I’ve learned to can through YouTube videos and books but I also dehydrate some stuff too. Having a variety of preserved foods, that you actually like to eat, is pretty handy. Even in “normal” times, there are days no one feels like cooking so a bowl of soup and a slice of bread makes the perfect meal. Over these past 4 years of trying to make everything I can from scratch, I’ve come to the realization that I can’t, and don’t want to, do it all. We’re fortunate that there are a lot of choices when it comes to commercially prepared canned, dehydrated, and freeze-dried food to supplement our pantry foods. Having options like these will help cover nutritional needs and ward off “palate fatigue”. Keeping a nice supply of spices, hot sauces, and condiments. will also help. After all, there’s no reason anyone has to make plain, unpalatable food simply because they’re eating “prepper food”. Flavor God has some fantastic spice combinations from savory to sweet. You can get 5% off here and try them out…imagine being snowed in yet enjoying a homemade latte topped with Gingerbread Cookie, Chocolate Donut, or Pumpkin Pie seasoning sprinkled on top. Yum!!
Speaking fo lattes (and coffee)…I’m sure you all know by now that I roast my own coffee. I probably have 200 pounds of green (unroasted) coffee beans on hand (from around the world). Also, all sorts of milks milk (from cows to plant-based) is available in shelf-stable aseptic packages as well as in dried powder form and can be used in a pinch. I also keep plenty of raw almonds on hand (I buy them in 5-pound bags) and can make a batch of almond milk on demand. I did a YouTube video showing how to easily make Oat Milk as well as how to make tofu from dried soybeans (the first stage is to make soy milk so you can stop there if needed).
Future Preparations for Mutiny Ranch
1- A New Pantry & Chest Freezer
This winter we plan on converting the extra space in our laundry room into pantry storage. Our current pantry is tiny and awkward….making it difficult to clean and organize. And, although we do have two refrigerators, we have to carry so much fresh and frozen produce for the pigs that we’d still like to add a chest freezer. Both of these improvements will allow us to store more items we need to feel better prepared (more and diverse food, batteries, candles, animal food, etc).
2- A Generator
We’ve had a generator on our radar ever since we moved in. Our electrical box is already set up for one and it would be a smart move considering our location and the possibility of snowstorms causing an outage.
3- A Truck and Horse/Livestock Trailer
The fires in Durango two years ago (and those that swept the country this year) has made it abundantly clear that we need to be prepared for evacuation. This is high on our priority list.
4- Barn and Feed Room Rebuild/Expansion
Ideally, we should have 3-4 usable stalls and a secure feed room capable of holding 6 months of feed at any given time. Currently, we have one fully enclosed stall that all 3 little ones sleep in at night (Maggie, Dot, and Dolly). The other enclosed stall is our feed room. We need more room to store more feed.
Lessons on Not Really Being All That Prepared
Our current setup is far from fail-proof. We clearly have a dependency on electricity, city water, wifi, Amazon, and the local grocery store. And we are working on some solutions (we have a sun oven and plans for a solar dehydrator as well as an outdoor cob oven). However, the benefits of being even somewhat prepared make our desire to improve this area of our lives even greater. Not only did we lessen our personal burden on an already stressed situation but we were able to help our neighbors if needed.
This pandemic has certainly shined a light on our strengths (few) and weaknesses (many) when it comes to being prepared and self-reliant. We have a lot of gaps to fill, especially when it comes to our rescue animals.
Has 2020 changed your perspective on preparedness? What changes have you made or want to make in the future?