Prepping is a wise thing to practice, and once you've gotten something squared away - it's one of those things you didn't realize was stressing you out (subconsciously). I personally think it's most important for families with smaller children, and elderly folks, but prepping is a worthwhile hobby for everyone.
The list below isn't for "bugging-out" purposes (where you'd be on the move, and carrying the bare minimum). This quest is meant more for sheltering in place, and holding tight during any events that make it impossible or dangerous to leave home. It's still a good idea to put together a separate bug-out bag for each person in your household, encase there is a need for immediate evacuation. Make sure that each persons bag contains ALL the essentials for survival, encase the group gets separated. It's not comforting to think about one of your children on their own in a survival situation, but you don't want them without a knife or lighter! And take the time to teach them how to use everything responsibly, and overcome their intimidation of every item!! If there's interest - I'll add a bug-out list too.
The most dangerous thing about a worst-case-scenario, or S.H.T.F (shit hitting the fan) situation - is people's REACTIONS!!! People can not only lose their cool, they can completely lose their minds (in the worst way). The first and most important thing to do in any survival situation is to KEEP YOURSELF BUSY, keep everyone busy -by assigning tasks that occupy lots of time. Even collecting firewood, water, or crunching numbers on rations, etc. can keep someone from cracking up, and taking others with them!
Prepping is important for a whole host of situations, especially dependant on where you live. It doesn't have to be all out war, alien invasion, or a zombie apocalypse. Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, landslides, EMPs, even bad ice and snow storms.....they all involve gas shortages, power outages, runs on grocery stores, looting and crime (which can lead to martial law), which can all take place over night....and easily last days to weeks. You seriously want to avoid going "out there", at all cost.
For home prepping situations - more is always better, but it comes down to how much space you have available for storage. I have absolutely no space for prepping. No garage, no attic, no basement, no closet space. There is crawl-space under the house, but just barely. That's the first thing I (personally) have to address. Space. Doesn't require a lot, but more than what I have, to do things properly. People that live in apartments/condos will probably be in a similar situation. The very first step is cleaning house, an unloading a lot of frivolous items, and prioritizing. What's more important - storing Christmas decorations, craft supplies you never use? A room just for sewing, or guests? Gym equipment that hasn't been touched in years? My only other suggestion - after thinning things out -is to "do it nicely"! Tossing stuff in some cardboard boxes, and stacking up 5 gallon buckets is fine, but it's not going to be as fine as doing a really nice job of it. Spend the time to plan out your prepping space, so stuff is visible, easy to get at, and organized efficiently. It will keep you engaged in the process, and adding to it as you can afford. It won't be something you close the door on and forget, or...start piling other things on top of.
I've been trying to find the "right" picture of a stockpile for the past half hour. Crazy waste of time, I know. Half are photos that look like small grocery stores. The ones that are of more reasonable size - are full of nothing but garbage processed food, cleaning and hygiene products. The idea is not to fill up what space is available, with 100 bottles of Soda, and 500 boxes of GMO Franken-cereal! Oatmeal is a lot more filling, and doubles in size when cooked. Junk cereal will vanish before your eyes, and doesn't offer a nice steady energy, like oats. Anyway - If you're savvy - you can get an entire years worth of food into an average size closet....you can't live off Tide, Clorox, and paper towels!!
The stockpile (above-left) is nothing you're aiming for. First of all - you can't eat any of it. The only thing that's useful are the small propane cans and the barbecue grill. Incredibly enough - all the cleaning products above can be replaced with one, all-purpose, homemade recipe, that can be stored in a single 5-gallon container. You can use it for washing clothes, cleaning anything, even washing your body and hair. Why, why, why spend good money on all that toxic crap, when you can make an entire years supply for less than $20?! And save a hell of a lot of space for food and water!!
The stockpile (above-right) is a little closer to decent. The space could actually be packed more, but it gives a good idea of what you can get into a single closet. If possible I'd try to get the entire bottom (floor) space filled with 5-gallon jugs of water, 2-deep if possible. And - avoid the prepackaged goods.
The stockpile (above-left) looks decent at first glance. Many people go this route with glass mason jars, but honestly - I don't get it. Why divide up all that popcorn into separate jars, when again - it could go into one pail? It's not space efficient. Baggies aren't bad, but they won't keep out rodents or pests.
The stockpile (above-right) is ideal, but - kinda unrealistic. Great if you live on a farm, have an abundant garden, and a lot of time on your hands. It doesn't get any better (or healthier) than homegrown, homemade canned goods, but it involves a lot that many people don't have access to. It's just a visual/energetic comparison to the photo above/left. Which would you rather have tucked away??
Do a Google search for small storage shed. This is a 6'x5' Arrow Storage Shed (HM65-A) that sells for $300 online. Something like this would be more than adequate. Of course, it's always cheaper to build your own, and if you keep your eye on Craigslist - you can find great deals on lumber scraps to make it even cheaper. I have on occasion - seen entire sheds for free on Craigslist, if you can haul them off.
Another good option for temporary storage - if you're not concerned with esthetics (although you can make them beautiful with a little free time and some cobb/mud) - is stacking up straw-bales, and throwing some plywood on top. Best if you have enough bales to cover the ply as well, and a tarp doesn't hurt. This makes for a super-insulated shelter for you prepping needs. You'll want to store everything in waterproof containers to be on the safe side...anything electronic, batteries, sleeping bags, etc. Make sure you know your ground before starting, and choose a level area that's higher than the rest...you want water running away from the shelter, not pooling inside it!
1 gallon of potable water per person per day! This covers cooking and washing up. FEMA recommends storing 1 gallon per person for a minimum of 3 days. Honestly - in 3 days...is probably when the "shit" outside would be reaching its peak!!!!! You could go for another 3 days without water, but WHY? Be gracious with yourself & family - and store away a minimum of 7 days worth! Still, this doesn't quite allow you to step back (post-prep) and be free from stressing. Better to go for something like - 21 days (3 weeks). That will make you feel REALLY well prepared. Problem for most is SPACE. There's absolutely no problem storing water outside in sealed containers IF IF IF it's not winter, and it's not going to freeze solid!!!!! What the hell are you going to do with a 55 gallon chunk of ice (that's in a plastic container)?!?! Not much. Garages, sheds, and basements are better. The best bet for apartment & condo dwellers is storing water under beds, &/or the balcony. Also doesn't hurt to have empty containers on hand (outside) to catch rainwater. This water will need to be treated (preferably).
*As part of your food prep - put away some sugar, and good quality sea salt...so you can mix up your own Gatorade. Good for children, and elderly, and those expending more energy than usual. And, people can get tired of drinking plain water all the time. DO NOT mix up an entire 5-gallon container of water, thinking you're being proactive. Add a spoonful to a glass as needed.
I've been in a few survival situations - and honestly - you'll eat ANYTHING you can get your hands on....and even more bizarre than that - you'll LOVE it! It will taste AWESOME! BUT - what happens if the shit doesn't hit the fan in the next 5 years? Are you going to voluntarily eat 50 tins of Spam? Probably not. Your food supply should be varied, and based on things you don't mind eating normally.
People can get by with 1 meal a day (rich in protein and fat). Staples are beans/legumes, rice, cornmeal, oats, peanut butter, and powdered milk. One thing I'd personally insist upon is Virgin Coconut Oil. It has the longest shelf life, and is most all-purpose. It can be added to any dish - savory or sweet, and replace butter as a spread. It's antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial. Great for burns, rashes, dry skin, and healing wounds. It can be eaten raw, or used to cook at high temperatures. You can purchase VCO in 1 gallon or 5 gallon buckets. I'll have to try and see if it can burned as an oil lamp? I don't see why not....seems logical. I'll let you know.
One of the arguments on food supplies is whether to go dehydrated or canned. Canned food has its own liquid content, and only requires heating (if that) = less fuel, and no water consumption. Canned foods are heavier, take up more space, and aren't the healthiest - due to BPA linings, MSG, and high sodium. A mix of both seems best. Normally, I'd warn against heavily processed foods, but in a survival situation - that's moot. Ready made pancake mix makes some sense (just add water), as does ready made spaghetti sauce, and the like. Use your best judgement.
Canning your own food is the best, but that's a lot of work. If you do want to can - try your hand at canning meat & fish. If you have a well producing garden - canning may be your best option, if you have lots of excess on hand. That or dehydrating. Jerky and dried meat is a nice treat to add to soups, chili, or dehydrated eggs. Everything is better homemade, but most people don't have that sort of time on their hands. It's most important that everyone is getting enough calories, where they're coming from is not quite as important as it normal is. A stash of cod liver oil is a good idea, as well as a liquid iron supplement - something like vegeminamightamix, or whatever that's called. If you want to invest the money - there's a ton of super-cool dehydrated food stuff out there!! Take a look at NorthBay Trading Company to give an idea of what's available.
Beeswax candles burn the longest, hottest, and are the least toxic. Oil lamps are most efficient and cost-effective. Flashlights are handy, but rely on batteries, which can die out even when not used. Consider a hand-crank (manual) flashlight. Any candles you can get a deal on, are good. Avoid SCENTED candles! Can never have too many candles imho. Oil lamps can make nice accessories (don't have to store them away). Buy several big bottles of high-quality, plain, clear oil. Don't buy citronella or other scented oils!
You can go through all the trouble of stockpiling candles, oil lamps, propane heaters, cookers - and....if you don't remember to stock up on something to light them all with....you're in a bad situation! Matches are cheapest, but you can go through them quickly. They're also the least effective in wind and rain. I think disposable lighters are pretty pricey. BICS are best in quality. If your lighter gets wet for any reason - it's useless, and has to dry out. Have lots of them. A better bet would be those long barbecue lighters, that usually come in a 3 pack. A variety of all the above is probably the best, all kept in waterproof containers or zip-lock baggies. Break them up into several separate containers - if one gets wet, or contaminated (happens) - the rest will be good.
Personally, you can't beat a Zippo. Can refill with (liquid) fuel, and replace flints. Does good in wet and wind. Just need one, with a bottle of fuel...if you don't lose it. Anyone that smokes already knows - don't lend out your lighter! Keep it on your person, and be the official "lighter".
Don't forget about magnifying glasses to light with! Even eyeglasses will work in a pinch!!
You can buy a case of the small, disposable, hand-held tanks (walmart), and get a range of screw on tops for cooking, light, or heat. This is great for one or two people, and apartment scenarios. Nice thing about them (if you're not an avid outdoors person) they're easy and safe to use. You can switch out tops quickly, and there's no tools required. If you barbecue, and have a few refillable tanks, get one or two extra, filled, and stow them away - you're already pretty much covered, prep-wise. A coleman stove always comes in handy though. If your home runs on propane - you pretty much have it made. Consider getting a propane generator to keep other appliances going, like fridge or water heater, and...you might not even notice the S.H.T.F.!
Make sure you have adequate ventilation anytime you're using propane inside.
If you don't have a first-aid kit - start building one! You can buy ready-made kits, but they're kind of a big-ticket item, and they don't have a lot of the extras, and...they're already packed full. Find a suitable case (larger is better) and start filling it with the basics. Anything. Whenever you can afford -add to it. Band-aids, bandages, sterile gauze padding, tape, pain relievers, safety pins, alcohol preps, rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are cheap - have lots of bottles of both! Iodine wash, triple antibiotic, calamine lotion, butterfly bandages, plastic gloves, bactine spray or first aid spray to clean and numb pain, magnifying glass, lots of cheap tubes of crazy glue! Amazing stuff for closing up small cuts, but as we know - they don't last long after one use. A great place to get first-aid supplies is Dollar General.
Spend money on a really good pair of tweezers, some stainless steel hemostats, quick clot or other blood clotting system, ammonia inhalants, SCALPEL blades (must!), sutures & needles or premade, second skin burn gel packs. Some alternative stuff that I think is a must for all kits - clove oil, oil of oregano, MMS (mineral miracle solution), and colloidal silver.
Check local sources for CPR and First Aid courses. Not something you can learn off Youtube, and it's useful!
All these items are important to surivival - saving physical energy, and making tasks a whole lot easier. You need a good, heavy-duty hunting (suvival) knife, and it needs to be dangerously sharp! Don't buy anything cheap - you'll regret it!! Of course you have your regular kitchen knives and scissors, but you want to pack away in supplies - a nice pair of fine scissors for hair cutting, cutting fabric, thread, etc. And a heavy-duty pair of scissors that will cut through almost anything. Why are scissors called pairs? Anyway - a few packages of razor blades, and a utility knife. A machete or an axe - preferably BOTH! A sharpening stone, or files to keep everything sharp. And you might want to invest in a saw - you can get nifty chain saws, that are just the chain with two pulls on either end. They wrap around the limb/wood, and work by pulling each end back and forth - takes up no space.
A Weather/Emergency Radio & batteries, or you can buy solar or hand-crank versions.
As I mentioned - this prep list is for those that will hunker down in their homes during any "event", and wait things out. This is not Bug-Out Prep (serious survival, where you're carrying everything on your back, and on the move). So - you're surrounded by stuff you can utilize to make life easier. You have a roof over your head (shelter), and a comfy bed to sleep in, with blankets and comforters, etc. Toothbrushes, and paste, and all your clothes, shoes/boots, books - stuff in your garage or shed. Cookware, and barbecues. A lot of the work is already done.
Board games are great any time, but if you don't have any - consider getting some. Get simple, kid friendly games, and some more difficult games that require more focus (to distract people from what's going on outside). Jigsaw puzzles are great, as well as just regular playing cards. Of course - you can always make up your own games.
You might not be able to get online, or get cell phone reception, but having your laptop, digital camera, or phone charged - might add a sense of comfort. A small, solar, USB charger would come in handy for accomplishing this.
I don't think this is a standard on most prepper lists, but to me it makes the most sense. People can go through a lot of toilet paper, and storing 100 rolls of the stuff, along with paper towel, diapers, etc - makes little sense to me. Unless you've got a big basement. Even then, you're likely to be dipping into your stash - and if the S.H.T.F. you're depleted. Rags are reusable and highly versatile. You can layer them up for cloth diapers, clean up with them, use to filter and strain stuff, use in place of T.P. and fold up into sanitary pads. All that doesn't make for a nice "wash day', but...you're in survival mode - deal with it. And, yes - separate into groups, so you're not using old diapers to filter coffee. Tear up old sheets, old blankets, old t-shirts, and towels - so you have a nice range of textures and absorbancies.
The hand-crank radio, and flashlight are great items for survival situations, but there are some other items that can be nice to have on hand, useful whenever, and don't rely on electricity. Survival is not dependant on them, but could make life easier. Hand-crank grinders are great for making your own flours, and making ground meat/sausage. If you're buying bulk dry food ingredients - it makes more sense to buy whole grains and grind them into flour as you need. If you're hunting - a grinder is great. Ground meat cooks faster, and uses less fuel, and you can also grind various meats together into sausage - utilizing as much of the animals as possible (organs, and lots of fat, and toss in some oatmeal to make things go further) - all makes for much more nutritious meal!
Hand-crank mini-washing machines are a neat idea, but an empty five-gallon bucket (can never have enough of those! Home Depot or Walmart $3-$5) and a clean toilet plunger make a completely decent substitute. Fill with water, a touch of soap, dirty clothes - and plunge away. If you're hunkered down at home, you probably have enough clothes to get you through, but some items - cloth diapers, kids clothes, underwear and socks - are easy to wash out and keep clean. Plus it gives you something to do with your time.