Non-Doomsday Prepping 8: More Sundries
Some years back, I started writing a cookbook because I realized a lot of younger families have no idea how to shop, store, and cook affordable food. A lot of folks are living on takeout and spending fortunes on food, having to dine at restaurants or hit the grocery store deli every day, and eating incredibly unhealthy diets. When they tried to eat healthy food, they failed because it was expensive and hard to prepare. In addition, it occurred to me that because they were living day by day, meal by meal, they were unprepared for any emergency (such as the coronavirus we’re looking at right now, job loss or family illness).
So I came up with this concept I called “non-doomsday prepping” – the notion of having a wide variety of shelf-stable food on hand so you can cook at home using ingredients that are on sale, while also being somewhat prepared for emergencies as they arise. Prepping doesn’t mean you’re crazy or weird, it’s actually a great way to save money over the course of time, and it doesn’t even have to take up lots of space.
I’ve divided my cookbook up into smaller essays and I’ll share them here for anyone who is interested.
Part 1 is here: The Case for Being Prepared
Part 2 is here: Shopping for Stocking Up
Part 3 is here: Staples and Beyond
Part 4 is here: Filling in the Gaps
Part 5 is here: Suppertime!
Part 6 is here: What Do I DO With All This??
Part 7 is here: Some Sundries
And once the official Non-Doomsday Prepping series is concluded (we’re almost there) I’m going to continue to post NDP recipes like No Yeast? No Problem and Broth and Stock: Truly Making Something From Nothing, so check out my #nondoomsdayprepping hashtag on Twitter or stay tuned here at Ordinary Times for more.
We haven’t done a Non-Doomsday Prepping article for a while, but with a very likely second coronavirus spike and possible shutdown approaching, and political chaos on the horizon, I just want to urge you guys again to start considering long term needs in your shopping plans. While normally I would tell you not to go out and spend a bunch of money (particularly money you don’t have, aka a credit card) stocking up all at once, I will admit to having some tummy rumblings about the next few months and this may be that lone exception to the rules. (Datapoint – my local store was completely and totally out of milk last night! Even the small paper cartons were gone. That has never happened that I can recall.)
Don’t go nuts, but it might be a decent idea to have at least a week or two’s worth of food on hand at any given time for the next few months, and possibly longer if you have trouble getting to the grocery store for whatever reason – you have kids, you don’t have a car and are worried the Uber may not be running, you need physical assistance that may not be available, etc.
Moving on to more pleasant subjects – many of you noticed that in my last article on sundries – the various non-food items that are necessary to have on hand not only in case of emergency, but also just for day to day living – I left a few things out. I just couldn’t fit them all into one reasonably-sized article. So here are the rest of our sundries! If you think I’ve left anything out, please check out NDP 7: Some Sundries to see if I discuss them in that article. If not, hit me up in the comments!
In our last installment of NDP, a reader observed that you can make do without some food items by just cooking other things, but running out of certain sundries can really be a disaster if you can’t make it to the store (Hence, the run earlier this year on toilet paper.) So when it comes to stocking up, if you have limited resources available for shopping, you may even want to make a policy of buying extras of your most important sundries before you expend money on storing anything but the most basic food. You’d hate to be supplied with months of ketchup and then find you have no garbage bags at all, because there’s always mustard or even just salt and pepper, but there isn’t always an equivalent for the various sundries.
Beware any prepping program that starts off by telling you how to make your own laundry detergent or toothpaste or baby wipes. If you enjoy these types of activities, great. But if the very thought of such ideas makes you want to give up before you even began, that’s ok, I feel you. I wasted so much time and energy chasing the DIY dragon only to realize I hadn’t even saved money and ended up with a much lower quality project (in some cases, totally useless). You do not need to do any of those things YOURSELF to succeed at running a household, and in many, many cases the price of getting started is more than the price of just buying the whatever-it-is to begin with, even if over time it pays for itself. Over time, the majority of people who try to make everything themselves give up anyway, sometimes because it’s so much work, and other times because the stuff we make ourselves just isn’t as good. In the Non-Doomsday Prepping Department of Atomic Enterprises, Inc we err on the side of achievable goals.
Always remember our NDP cardinal rule here – Buy only what you will actually use in a reasonable time (with the possible aforementioned exception of living in strange times here in 2020), buy extras on sale whenever you can (but ONLY on sale! Don’t let that “squirrel hoarding mentality” run amok, it’s ok if you sometimes don’t have a full stash of everything all the time!), while at the same time limit running all over town to save a few pennies in the pursuit of sale prices. You’d spend more on gas and wear and tear on your vehicle in the long run, not to mention the expense of your TIME you could be using to do other things like cook from scratch. And every time you enter a store you encounter temptation, dramatically upping the chances of impulse buying, which you never need to do.
Ten Totally Terrific Household goods, and Ten Optional Ones
Tin foil/plastic wrap, dish soap, laundry detergent(s), bleach, spray cleaner like Simple Green or Lysol All-Purpose (the one in the yellow bottle), Comet or other abrasive cleanser, scrubbies, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, garbage sacks
Optional (remember, our primary goal here is buying ahead to SAVE MONEY so please don’t disregard these items if you use them and see them on sale, even though they are not strictly necessary in an emergency): Spray and Wash/stain stick/bleach pen, cheap sandwich bags, brown paper sacks for lunches, Woolite, dryer sheets or fabric softener, wax paper/parchment paper, Pam or other non-stick spray, Pledge or similar furniture polish, mildew spray like Tilex or Lysol Multi-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach (the one in the green bottle), rubber gloves
Note about tin foil (which is actually aluminum) and plastic wrap: I like to have both on hand as they fill different niches (a pan lined with tin foil makes cleaning up after lasagna or ribs sooo much easier, and plastic wrap is better for wrapping things like balls of mozzarella or cut up cucumbers) but you don’t technically NEED both. You can buy reusable gizmos that cover your dishes in the fridge, and Tupperware-type containers, but even though I have those things and I do use them when I can, I find I still need tin foil and plastic wrap as they’re not universally helpful. Be aware that if tin foil touches anything wet, particularly acidic or salty, it will leave some metallic residue. This is not believed to be harmful and in fact is simply aluminum salt, an ingredient added regularly to food, but it is unsightly, so you might want to use plastic wrap instead, or cover your food first with wax or parchment paper before covering with tin foil.
Note about bleach – it’s good for more than just laundry. A small amount of bleach in water can make a sanitizer capable of killing germs quite effectively (⅓ cup per gallon, or 2 T per quart), and an even smaller amount of bleach in water can render questionable water potable (handy chart from the EPA here) Be sure you’re getting unscented bleach with no additional ingredients if you plan to use it for this purpose. Lavender scent may sound appealing when it comes to your white sundress, but in your drinking water, not so much.
Note about spray cleaner – I like to have a variety of these. I find Simple Green and orange cleaner pleasant-smelling and useful for day to day cleanups, and then I usually have 409 and Lysol All Purpose Cleaner (in the yellow bottle) lurking for tougher jobs where I need to eradicate some germs. 409 makes me cough so I’d probably forgo it if it was up to me, but my husband prefers it. For mildew some people like Tilex, but I prefer Lysol with Bleach (in the green bottle). I’m deathly allergic to Tilex so be aware that that is a distinct possibility. Err on the side of Lysol, it is just as good and less allergenic for at least one person.
Note about Comet and scrubbies: While it is possible to live without the ability to scour, it’s hard to get your bathtub or that baked-on pan clean with just a washcloth and sheer determination. The type of scrubbies you get will likely vary depending on your needs. I usually get the green ones and Magic Erasers (Magic Erasers are terrible for doing dishes but are great on walls and for getting off really baked on crap from your stovetop, though they don’t last long) but you do you.
Note about hand sanitizer – even in a non-Covid world, if you are stuck without water, having the ability to have clean-ish hands is very important. Sanitizer is also good for taking camping and using after the grocery store or doc’s office, even if the pandemic wasn’t a thing.
Note about disinfectant wipes – Yes, they’re expensive and don’t last very long. But I find that I clean more often having them than I do otherwise, particularly things that are kind of gross like the bathroom countertop and toilet seat but that don’t get obviously and undeniably dirty like the kitchen counter (the spills in the kitchen insure my kitchen counter is wiped down several times a day, but I admit I sometimes put off the bathroom even though it’s likely far more disgusting). Plus, in an emergency you may not have time or energy to do a full scrubdown, and a quick wipe may make all the difference. Disinfectant wipes often go on sale when the kids go back to school, so stock up then for a huge savings.
Note about waxed paper and parchment paper – Waxed paper, despite being inferior to tin foil and plastic wrap, has its uses in food storage (preventing frozen meats like hamburger patties and individual chicken breasts from sticking together, separating slices of precut cheese in the fridge, that type of thing). And if you have to cover something up with tin foil, a layer of waxed paper underneath the foil can prevent discoloration. If you run out of tin foil and plastic wrap, waxed paper can serve as a stand-in (remember the Layer Principle: having lots of different ways to meet particular needs based on whatever is cheap at the store. If you see waxed paper on sale and you can afford it, buy a box, and not only will you have waxed paper those rare times you need it, it will be there just chillaxin’ when you use up the last of the Saran.) Parchment paper can prevent baked goods from sticking to the pan, and you can make a little packet out of it to cook things like fish, tamales, desserts, and to steam veggies in. Neither is necessary, but a single roll of either goes a long way and takes up little space.
Note about Pam or similar non-stick cooking sprays – I never use these and have literally never purchased a can, but I know a lot of people use cooking sprays exclusively and feel they can’t live without it, so I include them here. You can use the aforementioned parchment paper to prevent sticking or a thin layer of cooking fat to grease your pan much more economically.
Note about rubber gloves (the big ones, like the type used for washing dishes) – Just get them. I know you think that you’re a badass and you don’t need hand protection, but once you have them, you will use them and find that you’re much better off for having them. If you were really in an emergency situation, you might find yourself doing all sorts of things you never did in the past, possibly including harsh chemicals or more time spent outdoors, ending up with chapped, cracked hands in need of protection even to do the most basic household chores. For those occasional super-chemically jobs like cleaning the oven, they’re invaluable. You may also want to get a package of medical-style gloves, which are also handy and have a different set of applications from rubber gloves – starting with chopping up hot peppers, which is what I mainly use them for.
Optional, but nice – drying rack. A drying rack is a wooden gizmo you can lay out your clothes on. Because I have solar power and I hate wasting energy on running the clothes dryer particularly in the winter, I dry most of my clothes by hand. You can fit an amazing amount of socks and dish towels and undies on a small wooden drying rack that fits easily in a closet or under a bed when not in use, and if you have room for two, you’ll never need to run your dryer again. Heavier things like jeans and blankets will overwhelm the flimsy structure (I dry mine on my bannister and over the backs of chairs) but in an emergency it may be that you end up washing your socks and undies by hand in your apartment, drying them on your rack, and decide that maybe the quilt can wait.
Optional, but possibly necessary – a stepstool. If you have overly high cupboards that are presently empty that you want to use for your Non-Doomsday Prepping project (helpful hint – don’t use those hard to reach areas for your food storage, use them to hold the canning kettle and turkey roasting pan and holiday Jello molds you only use once a year) get a sturdy stepstool and you will find a whole new world of storage opens up to you. Stepstools are also handy for cleaning cobwebs, painting, washing the car, hanging holiday lights, etc.
Optional – toilet bowl cleaner and one of those brushes. You probably have these things already, and you can technically use the other cleaning chemicals mentioned to clean your toilet, but a good toilet cleaner leaves your bowl sparkling without a lot of effort on your part.
Optional – If you don’t have a broom and dustpan, you may want to pick one up in case the power goes out and you can’t use your vacuum, or your housekeeper can’t come. Speaking of vacuums, you will probably want to have bags, belts, and Shopvac filters if you need them, at least one apiece, lying in wait for those pesky dust bunnies, and if you’re a Swiffer person you may want to pick up a couple extra pads when they’re on sale. Certainly not a necessity, but remember, our primary goal here is saving money by buying extras when things we use regularly are on sale, so wait for these things to be marked down and then strike like a cobra with a really dirty floor.
If you’re wondering where the heck the Ziplocs are, those are going to be covered in our next installment where we will discuss everything you need to grow and preserve foods at home. But I would also urge you to save up your bread bags. First turn them inside out and shake out all the crumbs, though you don’t need to wash them. Yes, even you, germaphobes. Germs love one thing above all else and that is MOISTURE so by washing a bag that was empty and dry, you actually encourage germs to grow that might not have otherwise, especially if you don’t get it fully dry before putting it away. Bread bags are free and are enormously handy for a wide variety of uses, including storing loaves of homemade bread and other baked goods for short periods of time (for safety’s sake, don’t reuse them more than once).
Ten necessities for light and heat:
Spare lightbulbs, flashlights, batteries for flashlights, a small, cheap barbeque or a camp stove, charcoal or propane for BBQ/stove, lighter fluid, matches/lighter, fire extinguisher(s), spare blankets and/or sleeping bags, at least one set of clothing per person that is appropriate outdoor winter wear for your area, including footwear.
Before we go any farther I want you to think of the coldest temperatures you regularly have in your area, subtract ten degrees just in case, and imagine trying to function in that temperature for a week straight. Imagine your children and your pets struggling just to exist in that frigid temperature for a week straight. Because the worst case scenario is what you need to be prepared for. Sure, starvation can kill you in time, and being out of garbage sacks is annoying, but cold can kill you before even a lack of water can manage the deed.
If you have a fireplace or wood stove you will also want to have on hand an adequate supply of firewood, including kindling, and firestarters. While instructions for how to make your own firestarters abound, homemade firestarters take supplies some of which are not free, are dangerous to make (involving melting wax on your stove), require saving ridiculous things like dryer lint and egg cartons in space you could use to save unridiculous things like food, and once finished, they require a lot of space to store (again, less room for food). Be aware, though, that many storebought firestarters are not stellar either. I recommend Diamond Brand “Strike a Fire” though they really don’t “strike a fire” as they promise, you can easily light the striking end and they are pretty good at getting kindling going. They also come in a reasonable box (you can get a huge one at WalMart) that you can set aside and keep for when you need them unlike many firestarters which are shaped like irregular nuggets and are impossible to stack. You can also use crumpled paper in a pinch (if your wood is even just a little wet or undercured, use a firestarter AND crumpled paper) but unless you have a nice amount of very dry kindling a fire started by paper can burn itself out without catching your wood on fire.
And MOST IMPORTANT, a non-negotiable must have – a smoke detector and batteries for your smoke detector, and a carbon monoxide detector if you think you will need it. Anyone who uses combustion (burning anything) rather than electricity to heat their home or cook should have a carbon monoxide detector.
Oh yes, and NO CANDLES. Why no candles? Well, because candles are a) not terribly reliable (u know how it goes, light a candle one time and the wick breaks off and falls into the wax and it’s game over man, game over) b)are super expensive c)take up a lot of space in storage for the light they provide d)can melt in storage rendering them unusable and ruining other things in the process e) cannot easily be carried around, what are we Wee Willie Winkie here and most importantly f) can light your hair, your clothes, your loved ones, and your whole house on fire if you’re not being eternally vigilant. Candles SUCK, especially in emergencies. If you are a candle lover, have at it, but I feel you’re incurring a huge risk for a very small benefit and a bayberry scent. Flashlights are better.
Note about flashlights – I never fully appreciated flashlights till I moved to the country and there were no streetlights. If you ever have to be in the dark for any reason, they are a NECESSITY. It is SO nice to be able to go outside after dark to get something from the car or to find out why the dog is barking and be able to actually see what you’re doing. There are good flashlights, and there are terrible flashlights. Do the research and get a good one so you’re not that person in the horror movie desperately shaking a useless silver tube trying to get the battery to make a connection again before the killer jumps out from the bushes at you. Rechargeables are of course an option, but recharging a rechargeable item is only possible if your power is on. They sell solar charging flashlights/chargers but you need sunlight, which may not be readily available. Handcrank flashlights also exist but I’ve never used one myself.
Since batteries are limited resources themselves, I suggest not squandering them. In an emergency, adopt a sleeping schedule that somewhat follows the natural limits of the daylight. Not only will you stay warmer if you’re cuddled up in bed, but you won’t be wasting your precious flashlight battery to finish up that game of Monopoly. Particularly in an unpredictable emergency (not a mere run of the mill winter storm where you know the power will be back in a couple days and it’s all just kind of a novel experience) when the horizon is blurry and hard to see, you probably need to embrace your inner Ben Franklin and hit the hay early.
Note about barbeques and camp stoves – you cannot, CANNOT use these things indoors for heat or cooking. When you burn things like propane or charcoal, they make carbon monoxide, and unlike a wood stove/fireplace, there’s not a mechanism in place like a chimney for getting rid of the toxic gas. It will build up in your home and can kill you. People have died heating their homes with BBQs and propane stoves/heaters without adequate ventilation. Again, if you have a gas fireplace and/or plan to use a propane heater (even the ones said to be safe indoors) like a Big Buddy in an emergency, you should get a carbon monoxide detector, no ifs, ands or buts about it. Sometimes, particularly if it’s something you don’t use often, gas fireplaces and propane heaters don’t work as designed. And even if you have a CO detector, never use a BBQ or propane camp stove indoors under any circumstances just in case it malfunctions at the critical moment.
If your problem is more excess heat if your AC goes out, heatstroke is definitely a potentially fatal problem, but can be mitigated more easily than cold. Dress light, work in the early and late hours of the day, stay inside when the sun is high, stay hydrated (I mentioned Gatorade in the previous installment of NDP, but even just a decent amount of water will suffice), and keep in mind that small children, infants in particular, sick people, and the elderly are less good at regulating their body temperature and may need some help like having their hair wet down periodically during the hot part of the day. And forgive me for stating the obvious, but a hot day is not the time to keep a newborn swaddled or for baby wearing, even if your little one is fussy.
10 Handyperson Helpers :
My mom swears you can fix anything with the trifecta of duct tape, Superglue, and WD 40. If you need more than this, you’re probably very handy, own your own tools, and don’t need my advice anyway. But if you’re clueless about doing even basic repairs these things may help in an emergency situation if you can’t call a fix-it guy or gal in to assist. Plus, on a day to day basis, all these things are useful for anyone running a household.
Duct tape, Superglue, WD 40, JB Weld, hammer and nails, zip ties (get a variety of sizes), cleaning solvent like Goo Gone or paint thinner (nail polish remover will do in a pinch), epoxy for pipe repairs, Liquid Plumr or similar drain cleaner, plumbing snake
Note about JB Weld – What most of us call “JB Weld” is a two-part adhesive that is super handy for repairing things like handles that have fallen off, wooden joints that have come apart, that kind of thing. The JB Weld company sells several different products, some of which may be better for your purposes, but the basic JB Weld is good for tons of various applications.
Note about plumbing snake: Most clogs can be cleared up with a plunger and Liquid Plumr, but alas the clogs that can’t. One winter when my husband was gone for several days driving the mail to California and back again in his postal days, the toilet got plugged. I could not for the life of me unclog it with the plunger. Let’s just say that was a pretty awful few days taking 3 small children not to mention myself, to the bathroom outside in 2 feet of snow.
Note about Superglue – can also be used to seal shut small wounds in an emergency and unless Hollywood has lied to me, collecting the fingerprints of your enemies.
Optional – screwdriver, pliers, razor knife (any sharp pocket knife will suffice) and a wirecutter. I once saved a puppy’s life by having a wirecutter handy when it stuck its head through a chain link fence and then panicked. Weird stuff happens sometimes, best to be prepared.
While this section seems grossly unnecessary in terms of Armageddon, remember, the fundamental point of the Non-Doomsday Prepping series is SAVING MONEY. The emergency preparedness is just a perk. If these are things you use, and you can get them at a discount (or in advance to save you an unnecessary trip to the store which costs both time and gas money), why not have a supply laid in? If you hit an office supply store either at back-to-school time or right before the holidays you can often pick up a lot of these items for a song.
Office supplies, while not at all sexy, also make great gifts. I recall sooo many times when my husband and I were just starting off our married life and we were so broke we didn’t even have an envelope to mail our bill payments in. Having envelopes is a prerequisite for functioning in society so the next time you go to a wedding, forget giving the bride and groom wine goblets, buy them office supplies instead. You’ll be a goddamn American hero even though they won’t realize it at the time and will fail to send you a thank you note. But not for lack of an envelope!
Computer paper, pens/pencils, pencil sharpener, staples and stapler, envelopes, stamps, printer ink, Sharpies, glue/rubber cement/glue stick, tape of various sorts (I usually have Scotch tape and clear packing tape but if you don’t send packages, you’d not need the latter. Some might need masking tape, but I never buy this.)
Note about pens and pencils – I don’t think you can ever have enough of these things. I don’t know where they go, but I envision another dimension in which an army of missing pens is partying with the socks that disappeared from the dryer.
Note about Sharpies: Not only are they handy if Marcellus Wallace’s wife comes over while OD’ing and Vincent Vega demands a Magic Marker, you know, a FELT PEN!!!, Sharpies are a great addition to any Non-Doomsday Prepping program. Armed with a Sharpie, you can write directly on cans and boxes and Ziploc bags and Tupperware, things like expiration dates or when you cooked something you’ve frozen/canned.
Note about printer ink – Printer ink has got to be one of the hugest scams ever perpetuated on the American people. Not only does it go bad (by the company’s design, in many cases) within a few months even if you’ve only printed off like two things, it’s so expensive that in many cases you may as well just buy a whole new printer for the price of the ink cartridges. Considering that printers are also terrible, it makes some sense to do that. If I were going to run for public office one of the items in my platform would be printer ink reform, and I would be elected in a landslide, no lawsuit required. But all that having been said, the truth is, if you’ve GOT to print off a very important form, you need ink to do it, so it’s always best to have a package sitting there waiting just in case you need to have said form in the mail by 5 o’clock, and it’s 4:30 now, tick tock.
Special mention for other kinds of paper – I like to have various other types of paper around (my many spiral notebooks full of writing prompts are legendary) and not just computer paper, but computer paper really fills both the “I need to make a note” and “I need to print off this copy of my tax return” niches, especially if you’re not a person like me who is perpetually writing things down and then never reading them again. IMO most people do not need Post-It Notes and they are expensive for what you get, but you know best; if you have a system of organization that requires Post-Its, get them. Also, stationery, pretty cards, blahdi-blah if you’re into that stuff.
Special mention for scissors – I have spoken to a stunning number of people who do not own scissors.
Special mention for a calculator – if the power goes out and you can’t charge your phone, you may still need to do some complicated math problem for some reason and a cheap solar powered calculator can come in incredibly handy. Plus kids like to play with them.
Special mention for art supplies – If you have kids, and the means, I highly recommend having construction paper, Crayola markers (most other brands dry out too fast), kid-friendly scissors, crayons, glitter glue, and possibly some cutesy stickers available. If the power goes out OR if your tablet breaks and you don’t have the money to replace it (or if, like me, you’ve made the bizarre decision to not let the kiddos play video games any more because they act like bickering zombified jerks when they do) the kids need something to occupy them. Arts and crafts are something that most kids, even in the Computer Age, still enjoy doing. You’ll probably need some of this stuff for school anyway, and during back-to-school sales you can load up pretty cheap. Don’t go overboard with the concept – the fancy kits are not only super expensive, but are often too difficult for kids to use on their own anyway, and doing something creative all on their own without an adult breathing down their necks is one of the most beneficial things about arts and crafts for kids.
Art supplies are also a good gift suggestion if you are literally drowning in booping plastic crap and your relatives are asking what to get the kiddos for their birthday.
Optional – a calendar. If you use your phone’s calendar, you’re going to be bereft if there is no phone. Calendars can be had quite cheaply or even free at your bank, or if you prefer the kind with glossy pictures there are a gazillion to choose from.
Optional – White Out. In an age of computers White Out seems entirely unnecessary but I still use it quite a lot, as do my kids.
Pet Care –
Animal food, chew toys, crates FOR ALL ANIMALS, wormers, flea and tick medicine, cat litter, nail clippers, styptic powder, pet-safe antibiotic cream such as NFZ, Elizabethan collar.
Leash and collar if you need them, most will have these already.
If necessary – whatever supplies you will need to care for your birds/fish/small pets, and a brush/shampoo if you normally take your longhaired pets to the groomer, in case you can’t get there for a few weeks or months.
Note about animal food – get more than you think you need, even if you have to resort to a sack of the cheap stuff as an emergency backup. Even if you never feed it to your furry friends, at the least you’ll know they won’t go hungry if you can’t get to the store for something better. Also, if you have chickens, cheap dog/cat food can be a short-term stand in for chicken feed in a pinch or a supplement to their diets in cold weather.
Storing animal food safely away from moisture and pests is a dilemma that many of us have. My former boss (as some of you know, I used to work at a huge dog kennel taking care of dozens of dogs and puppies, plus horses, chickens, cats, parrots, a sinister goat, and an entirely evil turkey) kept her animal feed in sealed plastic garbage cans, which was a good solution, but garbage cans are expensive. My husband got a broken freezer from the county dump that had the refrigerant removed, and we keep our feed in there. Not all municipalities will allow this, but it’s worth asking about. Do be careful with old fridges and freezers as adventuresome children can get into them and not be able to get back out again.
Note about chew toys – I am not talking about cute little stuffed toys for Rover to take one look and then shred. I’m talking about the type of chew “toy” you can give to a dog to keep them busy if for some reason you have to keep them indoors or even crated for a long period of time. Some of these are safer than others and the cheaper ones have fallen out of favor (isn’t that always the way) but a lot of dogs have gnawed on a lot of rawhides and survived the experience. If you have to keep your dog inside unexpectedly, something to chew might make the difference between sanity and chewed up shoes.
Note about crates: Why crates for all animals? Because if you need to evacuate due to a natural disaster, you need a crate for every animal. (ask me how I know :/) If you need to bring your dogs inside for some reason, you need a crate for each of them. If you need to contain your pets for any reason at all, you need a crate for every single one of them. Crates are bulky to store and expensive but trust me, in an emergency, that one crate you’ve been using to haul everyone back and forth to the vet will not suffice.
Note about wormers and flea and tick medicine: You can buy these products online or at your local feed store in bulk for less than a single dose at your vet. Do some research as a couple kinds of wormers aren’t suitable for some breeds of dog, and some medicines that are ok for dogs will kill your cats, but you CAN dose your own pet with them, I promise.
Note about litter (and a litter box, etc if you don’t have one already): Even if your cat is normally outside, sometimes things happen and you may need to bring them in. Cat litter does take up quite a lot of space in terms of keeping it on hand just in case, but you can keep it in an unheated garage or storage shed. It is also helpful for absorbing spilled oil and some kinds (the non-clumping ones) are good for providing traction if your vehicle is stuck in the snow.
Note about styptic powder: This is a kind of medicinal dust you can put on your pet’s wound (particularly excellent for broken or overclipped toenails) and it stops the bleeding. Bird owners use this a lot too; I used it on a chicken’s broken beak once and it worked flawlessly. Some styptic powders also have painkillers in them. In a pinch, you can use cornstarch or flour, but I find dogs and cats want to lick those things more than they do styptic powder. You can use this on people, too, for shaving nicks or badly broken nails.
About NFZ and similar products: You can use human antibiotic creams on pets and they are safer than the old school NFZ, but they are far more expensive. You can buy a lot of pet first aid supplies at the feed store that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access as a layman (even at a pet store, where they generally charge premium prices anyway). You may want to invest in the kind of cream that has bitter flavoring agents added to it, or buy some Bitter Apple spray to prevent your animal from licking their wounds. Or, you can get an Elizabethan collar as mentioned, but sometimes a motivated pooch can find a way around that.
Terrible advice that no one should take: People who do animal rescue or who are taking care of large numbers of spayed feral cats cannot afford to take their many charges to the veterinarian for $150 (or more; this is just how much our vet charges) every time there’s an abscess or a UTI. They sell bottles of so-called “fish antibiotics” online or at the pet store which are ostensibly meant to treat fish ailments in aquariums. (They also sell bird antibiotics over the counter like this too.)
In the pet store, you will see fish antibiotics vast quantities and wonder what kind of unGodly plague is affecting people’s fishtanks. It is actually that naughty naughty people actually give these medications to their non-fish pets. Everyone involved is in on the charade; the people who make the fish antibiotics know damn well what they’re being used for. It is the same medication, without any toxic additions, and you can find dosing instructions online. I don’t give this advice lightly as antibiotic abuse is a serious problem, and I think everyone should continue to seek proper medical advice for their animals of course, but if you are in a situation where your beloved pet will literally die without medical care and you are unable to find a veterinarian (such as if your beloved cat you raised with an eyedropper from the time he was an orphaned kitten gets a UTI and can’t pee, and you have just experienced a horrific fire and cannot get out of your driveway because there are power lines down, just to give a random example that never happened to me at all), having an unopened bottle of FishMox or FishFlex can give you something to fall back on until you are able to get to the vet.
Don’t do this. I am not advising you to do this. In fact I am advising you not to. You should, instead, let your pet die if you don’t have $150 just to get them in the door at the vet clinic (if it’s even open, since medical emergencies invariably happen at 4:55 Friday night on a three day weekend) rather than take a chance on treating them yourselves. Remember, these three paragraphs have been for entertainment purposes only.
Pregnancy test, needle and thread, Raid insect spray for yellow jackets/wasps, mousetraps, snow shovel, ice melt, motor oil, windshield washing fluid, gasoline, bullets
Note about pregnancy tests: In NDP 7 I wrote about the importance of having birth control on hand (do not use phone apps, not only will you not be able to access them in an emergency, but they are also terrible and unreliable). Just in case you didn’t listen, having a pregnancy test tucked away somewhere can be nice. In times of stress and less food intake, your cycle may become spotty, leading to panic if you’re afraid you are pregnant. A pregnancy test can help to reassure you if your cycle is just longer than normal, or can be a cause for celebration if a new arrival was something you have been hoping for. Pregnancy tests can be bought very cheaply online or at the dollar store and are still reliable provided you wait for a missed period before using them. The expensive tests simply mean you can test a little sooner, but are no better otherwise than the cheapies.
Note about insect spray: Raid is the best. The other brands largely suck. While Raid is expensive, a yellow jacket, hornet, or wasp nest in the wrong place at the wrong time is truly a matter of life and death. The yellow jacket traps they sell, I’ve not found to be particularly effective and of course they can’t do anything to get rid of nests that already exist. Especially in late fall when stinging insects start to get aggressive, a can or two of Raid is a good thing to have on hand.
Note about gasoline: Everyone who drives should have a gas can, and if you’re not sure if you’ll be using it soon, you can purchase some fuel additive to it to keep the gas usable longer. Those who live in the country and drive long distances may need to have more than just a gas can, and may want to look into a gas tank in case of an emergency. Be sure to wait to fill it till the price of gas drops.
Note about bullets: Let’s be real here.
Optional: Sunglasses. Technically not a necessity, but if you suddenly have to be outdoors doing a lot more work than you normally do, they can really help. Especially in the winter, the brightness of snow can be blinding.
Optional: reading glasses. even if you don’t think you need them, reading glasses can help magnify tiny things you need to see and as we all know from watching Survivor you can even use them on a sunny day to start a fire if you have no matches. And you will need reading glasses eventually. If you DO need them, having a pair tucked away in case your other glasses are broken or lost is never a bad idea.
Optional: Thermos and/or cold packs for transporting foods. A cooler may come in handy but coolers take up a MASSIVE amount of space. Only buy a cooler if you think you’ll use it normally for camping or tailgating.
Optional: pepper spray or taser. If you can’t bring yourself to procure a gun-like weapon (or can’t find one, as both guns and bullets are in short supply of late) then having these things may help, or it may just lull you into a false sense of security.
Stay tuned for the final two exciting installments of Non-Doomsday Prepping, where we’ll talk about things you need to raise and preserve your own food, and then a blowout holiday article where we focus on stuff that no one needs to have at all!