Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Should you be a prepper

With all the news reports of trade wars and nuclear threats and the chicken necking going on between world leaders my daughter asked if I thought she should become a doomsday prepper and stock up on food and water?  Um… no.    Why not?    Well its like this;  natural disasters happen all the time.  Suppose you spend hundreds on a stash of food and water and there is a natural disaster.  For example; how many of the people in recent disaster areas may have been preppers and do you believe their 25 years of supplies are still in tact?  If it got flooded it would no longer be usable.  If it was scattered by a hurricane or tornado it may never be found.  If it got buried by a mud slide or earthquake who’s gonna want to dig it up to eat?  Wild fires would burn any stockpiled stuff.  If we are hit by a nuclear bomb will the food or supplies still be where it was?    My point and my advice to her was if you have the skills to survive you won’t need a doomsday stockpile.

You may have a totally different opinion about prepping and that’s ok.  As I explained to my daughter; my own opinion is that the modern version of “doomsday prepping” is nothing more than a money making scheme based on fear.  The more doomsday fears created the more sales to be made.  Some of the really hard core prepper sites resort to outright lies to create greater fear and larger sales.  The way I figure it; the true doomsday prepper must have a really miserable life being constantly afraid and constantly worrying about the future and always guarding their stashes.  I’m fairly sure more than one of the hardcore preppers are wishing and hoping for a SHTF or apocalypse just so they can be proved right.  I wonder;  how can they protect their stash from the wrath of mother nature?

I used to hoard STUFF simply because I was worried I’d need it as soon as I got rid of it.  A life of poverty did that to me.  Then the 911 disaster in 2001 and a falling economy in 2008 as well as a couple of years without an increase in SS added to the constantly rising costs of everything and I hoarded even more.  I was hoarding stuff from fear that I couldn’t afford to buy when I needed something.  I remember when it was on the news that the price of cotton was going to skyrocket and become scarce.  I rushed right out and loaded up with cotton thread to keep my professional quilting business supplied for a long time.  I did the same thing with cotton quilt fabrics.

I went on a food hoarding binge in 2008 when the economy was diving and gas prices were rising.  Food prices grew higher every week due to higher transportation costs.  Not only was I hoarding for myself but for my family and neighbors too.  Living among all the STUFF started making me feel overwhelmed.  Suffocating.  Cluttered.  Disorganized.  Helpless.

That’s when a quote started echoing through my mind that changed my thinking completely.  I can’t remember the exact quote but it was something like;  “Give a man food he’ll eat today but teach him how to garden and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”  It was an eye opener for me.  I realized it would be far better learning survival skills than buying what I can’t possibly carry with me if I must get out fast.  Don’t get me wrong, I do prepare for a possible power outage that could last several days.  I also prepare for being stuck in the house for long period of time if the weather is bad or I’m sick.  I prepare for higher prices by stocking up enough to last a few weeks.  I stock up when I find a low price on food I will use all the time.  When I’m canning I have a supply in mind to last until the next growing season.  I certainly do not want to stock up on 25 years worth of STUFF.  Heck, I may not be in the same house for another 25 years.

I have images in my head of the people wading through flood waters in Houston with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.  I saw news photos of people in the aftermath of an earthquake in Mexico carrying nothing but a cell phone.  I watched news reports of people in Puerto Rico gathering water from a roadside stream.  Then there were the wild fires in the western states as people raced for their lives.  The volcano eruption and major earthquake in Hawaii yesterday.  Would any “doomsday prepping stuff” in any of those places still be there?  Well sure, some may still be there by sheer luck but certainly not all.  A much better prepared person is the one who has the knowledge and skills necessary to survive an evacuation without being totally dependent on government assistance.

Seriously, the doomsday prepper who believes they have all the supplies of dehydrated food, water, guns, ammo, barbed wire, sandbags, and medication necessary to ride out a world wide apocalypse in comfort and style is only fooling themselves.  Let me give you something to think about.  Suppose there actually was an apocalypse of biblical proportion to wipe out 1/3 of the population.  Well, that would put the USA population of what it was in the 1970s.  The 70s were so bad it gave us the predecessor of our current prepper wave but it certainly wasn’t anything like the Mad Max movies.

Ok, say 2/3 of the population were gone.  That would put us back to the population of about the 1900s.  Downton Abby and WW1 comes to mind but it wouldn’t be anything like a Walking Dead movie.  Lets go a bit further and say 90% of the population were gone.  Population would equal that of the time Lincoln was elected president.  I studied the life of Lincoln and there wasn’t any mention of him checking for zombies hiding in the shadows ready to pounce.

Now lets say a full 99% of the population gets wiped out leaving only 1% of the people.  Hmm… that would only put the USA population equal to that in the time after the Revolutionary War or about 1780s.  Harvard University had already been teaching for 150 years and the NY stock exchange started just ten years later in about 1790.  At that time ninety six percent of the US population lived on farms and those were only east of the Appalachia mountains with a very tiny fraction living on plantations in the south.  Washington DC did not exist yet and the capitol was in Philadelphia.  We had arts, letters for communication, transatlantic trade for goods, and we had a civilized population.  My point is that even if a catastrophic event wiped out 99% of the population it wouldn’t be too long before we would be back to doing our own thing and moving toward a future.

During both WW1 and WW2 we had food shortages and during the Great Depression people didn’t have money to buy food but no one spent precious money to put up barb wire fences around their property.  I can’t recall anyone standing guard with guns protecting their 25 years of food and water stashed away in hidden bunkers.  People shared skills and knowledge to help each other survive.  Heck, even the government kept things civil by promoting “fair share” rationing during the wars and started the WPA during the depression.

So.  Should you become a doomsday prepper?  A life of fear worrying about your 25 years of STUFF you can’t protect from Mother Nature or gaining knowledge and skills you can carry with you anywhere you go?  You be your own judge.

30 comments on “Should you be a prepper

  1. Nicole Alderman
    May 9, 2018

    I prepare largely for an earthquake or long-term snow/power outage. I’m in earthquake country. The government’s calculations on what would happen if the “big one” hit today, are pretty bad. When the governemtn says you should have 3 weeks worth of food, that’s them pretty much saying they won’t be there to help you, at all (https://www.dnr.wa.gov/programs-and-services/geology/geologic-hazards/emergency-preparedness#earthquakes.7all). Hospitals and roads would be destroyed/rendered useless. So, too, would be the bridges We have a lot of rivers and bridges where I live, and if they collapsed, I couldn’t *get* to a city. Pretty much, if the big earthquake hit, I’d be stranded at my house for probably a month or more without aid. My husband probably wouldn’t even be able to come home, as he’s employed by a hospital that we can only get to via bridges. He’d only be able to walk home, and they wouldn’t let him because he’d need to be working due to the crisis. So, it’d be me, at “home” with my two small children. I probably wouldn’t have electricity to run the lights or my septic system…or my well. My manufactured home might not be livable. I do have nice, resourceful neighbors, but they will likely also be struggling.

    So, I have a tent and a water filter, and written instructions on how to dig a latrine and an outhouse. And, we have 1-3 months of non-perishable foods. These aren’t the standard freeze-dried survival foods, they’re food that we already eat, that we found on sale. When we start getting low on, say, canned beans or coconut milk or dried fruit or GF flour, we buy more when we see it on sale. I figure a large portion of this food would be recoverable from the rubble, if my house did collapse. I also plan on moving the tent, etc, to our well house, which is smaller and more stable…and easier to dig things out of if it does collapse!

    I figure the people walking around with just a cellphone in your scenario either (1) lived in the city and their apartment collapsed and there’s no recovering anything, or (2) Were not prepared.

    But, yeah, preparing for “zombies” or to hole up in the mountains with ammo is a bit over the top, and probably won’t do much good. It’s better to learn to garden and produce food and build community and a support structure, than it is to horde!

    • Anita
      May 9, 2018

      Sounds like your emergency plan is pretty well arranged for your area and very practical. Nice plan. Do you have a wind up radio or maybe a solar recharge one for getting information? I got a wind up king a couple of years ago. It charges cell phones and also sends out sounds and light flashes to help find me if I’m trapped under rubble. Providing of course, that I have it with me. Kentucky is prone to having tornadoes.

      The people I saw walking around with cell phones had just escaped buildings after the earthquake with only the clothes they were wearing. Most people have the cell phone attached to a belt or in a pocket so that’s all they had with them.

      • Nicole Alderman
        May 10, 2018

        We actually have two of those radios, and one is in the car (the kids love playing with it, LOL!). My purse is also full of useful stuff like tiny water filter, swiss army knife, a tiny handcrank flashlight, magnifying glass, emergency blanket, matches, deck of card, tiny bottle of soap, tiny screwdriver set, tiny first aid kit, etc. Some women have makeup, I have random emergency things, HA! I try to always have my purse on me, so I always have all those supplies with me. I’ve been collecting random things since I was a teenager.

        Out diaper bag also has spare clothes for the kids, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, and a day or two worth of snacks. I figure between the two, I’ve got a “get-home” bag pretty well assembled. The diaper bag’s always in the car when we’re out and about, and at home, I have it right by the door, so if there were a fire/earthquake, I could conceivably grab the kids and the purse/diaper backpack and have the essentials, just in case.

        If your handcrank radio is small enough, you could carry it in your purse, so if you have your purse, you have the radio, just in case. They make some really tiny ones, like this one: https://www.amazon.com/Upgraded-Version-RunningSnail-Emergency-Flashlight/dp/B01MFCFKG5/ref=pd_lpo_vtph_23_bs_t_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=DK6QF5XCNG4W8XZBDE9F, which is only 5 inches long.

        OH! And if anyone else reading is in earthquake country, there are actual earthquake detectors that pick up the P waves (the ones that make dogs bark before an earthquake). We have one installed in our house. Depending on how far away the earthquake is, you have 30 second to 2 minutes warning before the earthquake. That’s enough time to get you and any kids/pets under a table or out of the building before the quake starts. Here’s the one I got–the price is like twice as much as when I bought mine. Hopefully the price will go down again! https://www.amazon.com/Upgraded-Version-RunningSnail-Emergency-Flashlight/dp/B01MFCFKG5/ref=pd_lpo_vtph_23_bs_t_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=DK6QF5XCNG4W8XZBDE9F

        • Nicole Alderman
          May 10, 2018

          Ooooh, this hand crank radio is even smaller, and only $15! (This is when I have to remind myself that I already have emergency radios. I don’t need a third!) https://www.amazon.com/Kaito-SB-1059-Crank-Weather-Radio/dp/B002WQ2HKQ

        • Anita
          May 11, 2018

          For safety reasons I never carry a purse. I carry a small wallet that fits into a pocket. Old ladies carrying a purse often become easy targets of purse snatchers. I guess I’ve heard one too many news reports of women severely hurt during a purse snatching. I don’t want to take the chance. I carry only my driver license, medical information, emergency contacts, library card, senior bus rider ID, bank card, and a little cash.

  2. Leslie Saunders
    May 6, 2018

    I agree with you 100 %,Anita. Skills will carry you a long way. Now that we have the internet,it’s even easier. I have used hair cutting videos, decorating videos, tax preparation videos,etc. sometimes it’s good to preview info, in case there is a future need. I have reviewed several on car repair, just so I can speak the language when something comes up. Please keep writing and sharing with all of us!

    • Anita
      May 8, 2018

      YouTube is like a visual encyclopedia. Personally I have to be very careful though because so much of what I see is actually harmful. Anybody can say they are an expert but that doesn’t mean they actually are an expert. You feel that way too?

  3. Margie in Toronto
    May 6, 2018

    I am prepared – yes – but never a prepper. I’ve lived my entire life under threat of a nuclear holocaust and honestly, if it happened, I don’t think I’d want to be one of the survivors.
    I’m lucky in that where Iive I don’t face too many natural disaster possibilities. We feel the occasional rumble from a distant earthquake but there’s no real threat. Tornadoes occasionally affect towns outside of the city but again, it would be a very rare occurrence here in the city. The last full hurricane that hit was in the 50’s and we learned a lot from all the flooding that occurred during that storm. The city is now full of parks & greenspace that are deliberate flood control areas. We had a lot of extra rain last Spring which did a bit of damage along the shoreline of the lake and some flooding over on the islands – but again, compared to other places we got off easy. But – we do get bad wind storms (had one last Friday afternoon and some folks are still without power) and of course ice storms – which also often cause power failures. Like any large city these days we do have to think of possible terrorist attacks and we had the SARS epidemic a few years ago so we are also well aware of what the consequences could be of a pandemic.
    So – prepared. I have mobility issues and I’m a little older now so it pays to have a well stocked pantry and fridge so that I don’t have to go out if the weather is bad. I am also on a much more limited budget so being able to buy items only when they go on sale is also a wise move. I would hate to run out of things like toilet paper – or laundry detergent – or milk – so I ensure that I have a good supply of those everyday items on hand,
    I only have a small 1 bedroom apt. but I do have good closet space and I think I’ve maximized my usage. And since it’s only me it’s not as though I need 20 jars of BBQ sauce or 100 tins of tuna to be prepared. Most Governments advise people to have at least 72 hours worth of supplies on hand at all times – I think two weeks would be a wiser choice for most people. Personally, I could probably manage comfortably for a couple of months – and longer if I really rationed things – that’s enough.
    Another interesting post Anita.

    • Anita
      May 8, 2018

      Hee, hee, your mention of 20 jars of BBQ sauce reminded me of the time I had 38 jars of peanut butter stashed away. I didn’t buy them. The neighbors gave them to me because the food banks were giving two jars a week and no one wanted them so I ended up with that many. I do eat peanut butter but not that much. I ended up giving it all away on freecycle.

  4. Jane
    May 6, 2018

    Wonderful post with rational thinking, Anita. I love that you compared population collapse with the different time periods. It really makes you think. If I were a prepper, I’d stop right now and use up what I already stockpiled.

  5. captnmike
    May 5, 2018

    25 years, no – but maybe 25 days if you live in an area that might have a major problem, most of it can be done like you are doing, buy a bit ahead. A 10 lb box of Quaker Oats from Costco is 1bout 100 servings, just add boiling water. A few extra cans of chili and maybe some canned fruit and you are almost there.

  6. T
    May 5, 2018

    I like some of the prepper skills like gardening or natural medicine, even how to treat minor illnesses and injuries without doctors in these trying expensive healthcare times. I like to watch programs about fishing or hunting even though I don’t have, and am unlikely to ever acquire, those particular skills.

    But you are right, stockpiling and hoarding are not much use in a disaster which compromises storage.

    I think disaster prep needs to be things like having a flashlight and radio and plan of where to go and how to meet/communicate with loved ones in an emergency. Before a hurricane here we make a waterproof pack with change of clothes, important papers, medication etc. I usually keep cash on hand in case power is out, and plastic utensils and easy basic foods plus bottled water. I empty the laundry hamper and dishwasher, charge phones and flashlights, put gas in cars, and make everything as ready as possible given power can be out for several days, but each event is different. As you say Anita no amount of preparation helped people in the thousands of single story homes or vehicles underwater during Harvey last year.

    • Anita
      May 8, 2018

      I watch a lot of documentary type shows on PBS. I will watch youtube to get motivated for what I want to accomplish. If I want to quilt but can’t seem to get started I watch quilting videos. If I want to get rid of excess stuff but can’t seem to get moving I watch hoarder videos.

      • T
        May 9, 2018

        Oh those hoarder videos! Horror of horrors…I am using this move to downsize even more, and the library is fortuitously having a book sale, the UU church a garage sale ditto, so I don’t feel I’m adding to the post-Harvey endless landfill…

        I lost weight again, so had to buy new clothes, and get rid of some old. I’ve had fun with that though, buying myself some nice things with the money my dad left me; very rare I have had pretty clothes the past few years, they have all been practical, but I am finding it helps me cope with the loss of self-esteem from disability/illness so it’s well worth it and way cheaper than a psychotherapist : )

        Hope you are doing well?

        • Anita
          May 9, 2018

          Congratulations on your weight loss! Yes, I’m doing ok. My A1C creeped up a bit so I’m working on getting it down again.

          I have been looking at new clothes too. I haven’t bought new, new clothes in about 35 years. I’ve shopped yard sales and thrift stores to get, as you say, practical items. Lately all I’ve been finding at thrift stores is very old double knit polyester type pants and stretched out logo t-shirts. I decided its time to buy something brand new but what’s available is either very thin fabric or very poorly made. I can’t seem to find all cotton anything. I realize I’m way behind the times but doesn’t anyone sell quality made clothing anymore? Are you finding clothes to suit you?

          • T
            May 9, 2018

            Sort of! I tried a bunch of stuff on in target today and ended up with one blouse…I’ve also had another blouse, two skirts and a really well-fitting dress from there. Wal-mart has been ok for cotton nightdresses @ $6 ( or less ) and plain t-shirts and I got a pair of shoes for with the dress. Underwear I mostly order from Amazon. And I have a bunch of funny/inspirational work t-shirts…need more plain capri pants to go with them.On Saturday I’ll try out Palais Royal and Ross, for pants and for a fancy summer dressing gown. I got some really cool socks from amazon and some from 99 cent only store.

            Nothing much is quality made though as you found.

            • Anita
              May 11, 2018

              On my side of Louisville we don’t have a Target anymore. It closed a few years ago. We have Meijer or Walmart and now Kroger is selling clothing. I heard there is a new Ross store opened now. Everything else is either a thrift store or a consignment store. I know how to make clothing so I may have to go back to doing that. I do make my own undies from t-shirts. Buying a t-shirt is cheaper than buying the fabric by the yard. I get a perfect fit and they last almost forever.

              • T
                May 11, 2018

                Have you published an article on that yet- making your own underwear? Would love to be able to do that, some of the designs are most impractical for real human women!

                • Anita
                  May 11, 2018

                  Yes, I did. Its only for the panties. I had another post for making the sport bras but it got lost in cyber space. Here is the link. https://anitaestes.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/has-na-na-lost-her-mind/ Its on my quilting blog, which I had long before this blog. Its a very long post with lots of photos. Let me know if it helps. I may need to do another one for the bras if there is a need.

                  • T
                    May 12, 2018

                    Thank you, will check it out! Tracy

  7. Sue
    May 5, 2018

    Good article. Good thoughts. I totally agree. If we keep busy being positive, we don’t have time to store “stuff” for doomsday. Much better to store knowledge.

    • T
      May 9, 2018

      ‘Store knowledge’, like that.

      ‘Store knowledge, stamina and compassion’ and we’ll be ok!

  8. KAYTHEGARDENER
    May 5, 2018

    Dear Na-Na,
    Rather than the fear & distrust of the modern preppers push for the most part, I think that the example of people cooperating during WWII shortages is much better.
    Here is a link to an 8 part BBC documentary on the British Wartime Farm —
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUsU5s0ofYo , done by a historian & 2 archeologists as re-enactors… There is also a series on Tudor monastery farms ( about 1500s), a Victorian farm (about 1880s) & an Edwardian farm (1910s)… Happy viewing!! Why reinvent the wheel?…

  9. Linda in NE
    May 5, 2018

    Good points, Anita. I read a fairly moderate prepper/survivalist blog that doesn’t go to extremes. Yet the guy who runs it does sell products & every now & then he posts something to put fear into people to keep them coming back and buying products. I’m sure he gets paid for ads on his site as well, but I never see them since I use an ad blocker on my browser. Honestly, do I want to eat that 25 yr. old food if the time should ever come? The website has recently changed to more of a homesteader focus so maybe even the guy running it realizes the prepper craze is about over….kind of like the LulaRoe craze. Everything runs it’s course eventually.

    • Anita
      May 7, 2018

      The prepper craze doesn’t go away it just slows down until one of them comes up with a new scare tactic. Remember Y2K and the Myan predictions? My guess is this next one is about “the new world order” and/or “deep state” both are about the haves and the have nots. There is actually a list of conspiracy theories in several places on the internet. Just pick a conspiracy and promote it to sell your products.

      My grands are trying to get me into those stretchy pants. NO WAY. These rolls of old lady bulges are bad enough without pouring them into stretchy legging pants that look like pajamas. 😉

  10. catherine young
    May 5, 2018

    It is very expensive to prep for Doomsday, and even then, the chances that the disaster will dovetail to your prep being notably what gets your family thorough it are very small.

    I know some who prep without rotating stock or take other measures that what they have are not spoiled provisions. It’s not something you do and then forget about. It’s something that has to be on your mind regularly.

    There is that gray area between hoarding and saving. I shall never have a minimalist house because I like having things at hand when I, or a friend needs or wants them, and it’s not easy or even possible to get. In my opinion, you cross over into hoarding when the stuff becomes so unorganized that you can’t readily find items, you lose track of what you have, that the stored items become an impediment to your everyday life in terms of being unsightly, dangerous and taking up too much of your time, attention and money. This can happen with hobby and pastimes as well as necessities.

    I admit I actively fight this myself

    • Anita
      May 7, 2018

      I have had a hard time with hobby items because my hobby was also my business. Now that I’m officially retired and only quilting for myself and a few close friends its going to be easier letting most of it go to new homes.

  11. Delorise
    May 5, 2018

    Yep like you every time there was news about a shortage of something I would try to hoard stuff. I found storing that stuff just flat out got on my nerves- -I was constantly moving and rearranging my stockpile. I still do have a small stockpile but now it is only enough for 6 to 9 months and that makes me feel secure but not overwhelmed. Loved all your comments– your response to your daughter was right on.

    • Anita
      May 7, 2018

      Yes, constantly moving and rearranging to relieve the stress. I’d get rid of 80% only to see it all come back again as I hoarded again. Each time I got rid of STUFF I’d feel guilty about the wasted money or the lost food I could have used.

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