Non-Doomsday Prepping Part 1: The Case for Being Prepared

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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48 Responses

  1. Marchmaine says:

    Looking forward to the series.

    I like the Iron Pentagon: Delicious, Convenient, Healthy, and Affordable food that Lasts.

    We’d self-tag as Delicious, Healthy food that Lasts… so won’t comment on affordable or quick tips for Weds Dinner in 5-minutes. On affordable, I’d only comment that on a sliding scale compared to how we eat… amazingly affordable; but, given our budget for food, not necessarily repeatable.

    But within those parameters, I’d weigh-in on the Upright vs. Chest argument strongly in favor of Uprights. As you note, managing the frozen stock is *really* important and for that, the upright is so much better. One of the things I found on our farm is that the thing that no-one likes doing doesn’t get done… so whatever you can do to make the worst thing better will pay outsized dividends. That’s how I feel about the upright/chest debate; if you are super diligent and have an eidetic memory of where everything is, don’t mind constantly re-organizing, and stay on top of things… then a chest will work (and they are a bit cheaper). For us? Chests are where food went to die. Switching to uprights (we have 2 now) was a huge improvement in cutting down waste… so, I’d argue the more frugal choice in the long run.

    We’ve made it through power-outages with no loss… I think the biggest risk to loss where the chest is *much* better is the “I didn’t close the door all the way” issue… we’ve lost food (mostly on the doors) to that, definitely. Whereas the lid on the chest – well unless you spaceout completely, its very nearly idiot proof.

    TLDR: For QOL, better rotation, and longterm frugality, Uprights win. Come at me bro.Report

    • atomickristin in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Thank you so much! That was an area of analysis I wasn’t totally informed about, but when I go to my mother in law’s house I often have to clean out her chest freezer and it’s a b— to dig down to the bottom of it, just as you’re saying. Thanks for commenting!Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to atomickristin says:

        The other thing I’d add for frugal freezing/stretching is a vacuum sealer. Its practically a requirement for us processing our own game/livestock… but even some things we buy bulk we’ll unwrap and vacuum seal. Most grocery store packaging is usually only good for a couple/few weeks of freezing – which is fine if you are shopping for a 1 month time frame, but won’t work if you’re moving into a stocking paradigm.

        In fact last night I pulled out two Venison Loins from the 2018 season… they were perfectly preserved and delicious.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Also, if you have more vertical space than horizontal. I have a house with low square footage, but nice tall ceilings. No way I can fit a chest freezer anywhere, but an upright…Report

      • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        And it is kinda the opposite for me. I have a full basement, but it has low ceilings – six foot, with a section that is a foot lower. So, chest freezers for us. And we have two smaller ones due to the abiltiy to get things into that basement. But, on the other hand, I have six (yes, six) full stack tool boxes down there…Report

  2. Linda says:

    Loved your post!Report

  3. Michael Cain says:

    Was out doing errands earlier today. Status of the grocery: lots of rice and dried beans; canned goods are all stocked; refrigerators and freezers are full; toilet paper aisle was stripped bare. The toilet paper thing is apparently true at all of their stores. When I asked, the manager told me that they were sending trucks full of nothing but toilet paper out from the big warehouse.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

      This is where I am dumb. I bought TP in the last big trip to the store. Did I need TP? Eh. Not really. We had enough to get us through another month or two with our current supply.

      So why did I buy some? Well… because I didn’t want to not be able to buy some next week.Report

    • I almost hate to drop this hint to the world but at least where we live, the small town groceries still have fully stocked shelves. I don’t know why that is, but we’ve been to several stores lately across 3 little towns and no one was doing anything any different.Report

  4. Chip Daniels says:

    In Boy Scouts, where the motto was “Be Prepared”, the thing I always had to teach the boys was “Know What You Are Preparing For”.

    Like, are you preparing for a hike where you need to pack in water, or one where you can find water along the way? Preparing for cold weather or warm? Dry or rainy?

    In this case, I think the most realistic scenario is not a collapse of the power grid but a lengthy layoff. Not having to go without electricity or water, but having to go without a paycheck for some length of time.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Well, considering the economy added 273,000 jobs last month alone, sending unemployment back to 3.5%, the fear of layoffs might be… unrealistic… at this point. Of course, Bernie and Lizzie will do everything possible to kill that golden goose.

      On the other hand, people worrying about supply chain issues is real. I don’t think toilet paper is going to be a problem, what with most of it coming from Canada, but people take cleanliness seriouly. Which is good.

      On the griping hand, fear mongering is never good.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Aaron David says:

        It is possible that the virus will have only minimal impact, sort of like a nastier version of the seasonal flu we already live with. The economic impact might be just higher than normal rates of employee absenteeism.

        In which case worrying about supply lines would be absurd.

        But there isn’t any scenario in which the supply lines of the economy falter, and yet not produce a recession.
        There isn’t any scenario in which the utility grid goes down, without the economy going into a free fall first.Report

      • I hope the economy stays strong but that having been said I’ve already noticed a sharp downturn. March is usually one of my best months and I’ve only had 3 new clients, which is terrible for me.Report

    • Absolutely. That IS the most realistic scenario by far. For us personally, also have the possibility of ending up stranded at home due to heavy snow or flooding, which I think might equate to a person in a city having to deal with an earthquake or hurricane or heavy snowfall depending on where you live.

      While the main reason I started this project is because it just plain saves money for people to shop/eat this way, the disaster preparedness is a nice side effect. A lot of people are interested in the topic and most of the preppers our there are doomsday prophets so people end up sinking a fortune into things they’ll never eat and when they get laid off, have nothing to fall back on other than buckets of unground corn or whatever.Report

  5. Aaron David says:

    My wife is an aboslute fiend for cooking, growing, foraging and such. And, she grew up poor in the hinterlands of northern California. Much of what you are preaching are the basics of how we live. Pantry foods, freezing, long term storage, are all parts of poor and thrify food lovers and their lives.Report

  6. Oscar Gordon says:

    I second the stand mixer. I resisted the idea for a long time, the Costco had one on sale, and my wife wanted it, so I relented. Now I use it more than she does (I love the smell of baking bread!).Report

    • Hubby brought me a bread machine from the dump (he works at the dump, so we get a massive amount of practically-new goodies people throw away when their elders pass on) and I used it a couple times. It was onerous to use, made one small loaf of bread, required 4 whole hours of babysitting, and took up so much counter space I had him take it back. I’m able to brew up 4 loaves of bread in the time it took just to warm the damn thing up.Report

  7. DensityDuck says:

    One of the things about the Instant Pot is that everything you cook in it tends to have the same texture. If you like that texture that’s OK, but if you have issues with mushy foods then pressure-cooked items might not work for you.

    actually…that’s another important part of prepping and meals-that-aren’t-expensive that you need to work out, is how to deal with picky eaters. And that’s not really something that buying new ingredients or figuring out how to store things efficiently will fix; it doesn’t help to have two months’ worth of bread ingredients if your children will go to bed hungry rather than eat anything that isn’t chicken nuggets or butter pasta (with a glass of milk that must be 12-ounce size even though they will only drink a third of it and then declare it “warm” and “yucky” and will not-faking gag if they take a sip after that point.)Report


      Luckily my kids love homemade bread but there is a lot to take into consideration.

      I just cringe when I read these recipes on prepping sites that involve things that no child would ever eat in a true emergency, let alone a lesser emergency like job loss. The last thing you want to be dealing with, when you’re dealing with unhappy circumstances already, is whiny kiddos. I put kid friendly foods at a premium.

      Also, don’t forget the child who habitually asks for more “because I’m starving” and then takes two bites and is full. That’s where the chickens come in LOLReport

    • Oh and the key with the Instant Pot is to only make things that require the Instant Pot. It’s like Wolverine, the best there is at what it does, but don’t take it to the ballet and expect it to behave itself. 🙂 Thanks for reading!Report

      • Aaron David in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        We had one (wife is a bit of a gaget fan) but never use it (except as a place to su vide. Another thing used once…) She seems to prefer actual cooking. We also don’t have a crok pot or bread machine and she would prefer to use a press-pot for coffee. I did have to draw the line there.

        Part of this is it is just the two of us at this point. No real need for cooking in bulk.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Life changing parenting book.

      Picky eaters are made, not born.

      [that said, we know some folks with kids who have developmental/behavioral problems and obviously different rules apply]Report

  8. DensityDuck says:

    Also–and you do touch on this–don’t invest in a freezer and fill it with things unless you’re sure of your power supply! Maybe a whole-house generator isn’t in the budget, but propane freezers can be had. You’ll need to invest in the installation — while most of these will run off of the house power and use the propane as a backup, you can’t burn the propane inside the house, so you’ll need vent ducting for it, and it has to be a well-done job so it won’t leak fumes.Report

    • fair point. I have two fridge/freezer combos then the large chest freezer as well. When we had the hurricane last year and no power for a week easily kept all three going with a rotation on the generator. Chest freezer will last a few days at a time if you don’t open it and it isn’t too terribly hot.Report

    • Oh sorry I missed this the first time through – my husband regularly, regularly has people bring full freezers full of spoiled meat into the dump (and in the summertime, those are Very Bad Days Indeed).

      Living off the grid we have both a propane fridge and stove already and hope to get a propane freezer maybe this year. Being without a freezer did take quite a bit of getting used to at first!Report

  9. Philip H says:

    1. Stand Mixer. Check
    2. Instant Pot. Check
    3. Canned Good storage and stock. CHeck.
    4. Knowing how to cook and bake. Check

    Being a south Louisiana guy I come form a slow food cook at home in your gran mere’s kitchen kind of food ethic, honed and sharpened with a couple of stints as a kid in the Mediterranean part of southern Spain. Sure, I’m as guilty as the next guy when it comes to Arby’s Original Roast Beef sandwiches . . . but otherwise we do about 75% of our eating at home with foods we cook. Which is to say it show you are raised and what your cultural norms around food are as much as anything that drives your desire and ability to cook.

    And as to stocking up – We live in hurricane country so its a regular part of our routine.

    Which reminds me I need another propane tank for the grill.Report

    • I am honestly not too sure where I picked up this drive. My mom was never into this stuff the way I am. My stepmother and dad are foodies, but are far more gourmet oriented. I think it comes from reading Little House on the Prairie a whole lot growing up. 🙂Report

  10. The generator is life changing. Before we moved we’d regularly lose power for several hours or even a day sometimes. Now we never lose power. Recommend for those with the means!Report

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