Always be prepared: A mom’s look at prepping
Always be prepared:
A mom’s look at prepping
By: Patti Light
When Lisa Bedford began writing her blog, The Survival Mom, in June 2009, her intention was to provide encouragement, information and resources to other moms who were becoming aware of the need to prepare their homes and families for any potential disaster. Today the blog receives over 100,000 visitors monthly.
Lisa has also written the book Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Emergencies and Worst Case Scenarios (HarperOne), presenting her indepth strategies geared specifically for busy moms. Since its release, she has been featured on The Today Show, the Glenn Beck Show, CBS and Fox news affiliates and in Newsweek. So we are delighted that she made time to share some of her philosophies and tips in this exclusive interview with Fan Castle.
So Lisa, how did prepping begin for you and your family?
I was the one who initially spearheaded this at our house. The scenario that got us going was what’s happening with the economy. In 2008, we saw things that seemed different from the typical recession – this one affected people who had solid careers and had done everything right. So it started as a feeling based on current events and realizing that it could happen to us, and I began researching what we could do to become proactive.
Could you explain the difference in the terminology – prepping and surviving?
Survivalists were people who isolated themselves and wanted to be wholly self-reliant. Preppers tend to be people who live in the cities, in the suburbs and often do not have the option of moving to rural areas because of family, health or jobs. Prepping is becoming more independent-minded and saying, ‘We may not have a well or 120 acres to raise livestock and develop crops – typical self-reliant skills – but we do what can we do wherever we happen to be.’
Typically, the woman is the CEO of the home. How is prepping from this perspective different from the more testosterone-laden defense strategies?
(Laughs) A man’s primary concern with his family is to protect them. That’s the popularity of the gun blogs and the focus on guns and firearms. Men are naturally protective. The second thing they focus on is providing for their family. Everything else is up to the woman – meals and organization, teaching the kids things, that’s the realm of the woman. So I ask myself,”How can I maintain some sense of normalcy if something happens, and outside the home nothing is normal – and may not ever be again?” Some moms say they stock up cake mixes and birthday candles and buy kids’ clothes two, three or four sizes too big whenever they’re on sale. Women want to maintain some stability and cohesiveness. So whether there is a tornado or a collapse of the economy, we still need to maintain some traditions inside our homes.
Why have women suddenly become so interested in survival and preparedness?
I think because it literally hits us where we live. We see the economy, and we realize that could be my family that doesn’t have enough money for groceries. I also think moms have a very good eye for what the family could give up to save money for prepping. And I think a mom makes so many decisions – most of the decisions that go on in our home are decisions that I make. Because of that, it’s become my responsibility to say we can do without this, or we’re not going to eat out for two months. The dad may not be as intuitive.
How have you incorporated prepping into a typical suburban family lifestyle?
It starts with awareness. Once you become aware, it becomes something you do parallel to everyday life. Everything I’ve always done – planning birthday parties, celebrating holidays, doing laundry, shopping for groceries – now there’s another awareness that follows me wherever I go. If there’s a good deal on toothpaste, I might buy ten tubes. Or when I think about what activities I want my kids to be involved in, I might say archery would be good as opposed to a year of ballet. Kids pick up different types of practical skills, so it’s looking for how can we pick up skills for self reliance and how we can stock up and make our homes self reliant. But I can’t obsess about it, because there’s a birthday party I have to plan in two weeks.
How do get the kids involved in prepping?
I spent 25 years teaching, and I found that my attitude and level of confidence made the difference in the climate of the classroom and the home. When we started stocking extra food, we did it very matter-of-factly. We started piling things in the cart and talked about food storage. We talked to the kids about potential scenarios, nothing terrifying. Like what if we couldn’t get to the grocery store someday, and we talked about all the trucks on the highway and how everything is trucked in. What if they couldn’t get to our neighborhood? Or what if gas got so expensive they had to shut down? We use examples from nature and how animals prepare for the next season – some dig their tunnels in such a way that even if they’re flooded there is still a section of their burrows that isn’t affected by the flood waters. We use examples of literature and the Bible – Joseph and how he knew there were tough times ahead and to get ready for the famine with food storage. We talked about how they set aside the food and saved it for later, and how they had enough to share with other people.
We also taught the kids to use our solar garden; and we’ve planted a garden for the last three years, which has become more successful with each season. They’ve picked up a lot of skills for self reliance. Another great opportunity is when you take your family camping. It’s just you and whatever it is you brought. If you didn’t bring enough water or food or aren’t warm enough, those are elements of survival. It focuses on what we have to do to be safe and self reliant.
What are the five most important things every child should have in their backpack?
When our kids leave our home for school or a sleepover, we assume that crises rarely happen. But there are times when schools have to go on lockdown for some reason; and if your child was in that situation, having a few very simple things can help them feel secure. A pack of tissues is emergency toilet paper. You can buy small water (like juice boxes) so they’ll have something to drink. Put in a few band-aids, a few hard candies and a tiny bottle of hand-sanitizer. The most likely scenario is that they might get thirsty, they might get scared, they might need a band-aid or have to go to the bathroom. They can fit stuff for all these in a medium bag. As a matter of fact, schools should have a plan where each kid brings a small set of supplies the first week of school, and they’re labeled and stored somewhere. As a teacher, I would never want to be in a lockdown with 25-28 kids with no toilet and no water.
What’s your #1 must-have gadget?
I know people love gadgets, but honestly the #1 thing people need, the thing that is most helpful, is the internet. There’s virtually nothing you can’t learn on the internet. That includes watching YouTube videos on how to start a campfire or how to can a chicken – any skill or philosophy you need to know. Some day we may lose access to the internet through government or if a power grid goes down. So it’s very important when you find something you think really is valuable that you make copies of it. People who live in areas prone to natural disasters should be especially careful to scan and save all their documents electronically and keep a copy in their home and one with a friend 50 miles away. If their home is destroyed, birth certificates, insurance documents and so forth would be scattered to the wind.
How can people prepare themselves for financial hardships?
Every chance you can, add a few dollars to your utility bills; it builds up. At the grocery store, think about it this way – you’re shopping for tomorrow at today’s prices. Also, when you buy in a panic you almost always pay premium. If you don’t have the water you need, how much would you be willing to pay? Premium price. By buying now, you’re not in panic mode. Or you may not be able to find what you need. So looking for estate sales now and having some things set aside is literally money in the bank. Our dollar has actually lost values of 10-13% just in the last three or four years. Slowly the value of the dollar has eroded, and so we will see more expensive food and more expensive fuel. And I don’t think there’s going to be an end to that.
You refer to “survival finances” – what do you mean that?
I would first of all suggest looking at any expense that you can set aside, at least temporarily. For example, one time I cancelled my kids’ music lessons for a few months. And it really hurt! But that was $200 a month we were paying out. Then I realized we were paying $14.95 for credit rating services we didn’t need. Look at everything; even if you don’t want to let it go, you can always pick it back up later. Look for a better cell phone package, get the bare bones minimum. We don’t even pay for TV any more, we have an HD antennae. In most American households there are expenses that you can get rid of. Truthfully, the only way to survive financially is to spend less or make more – or both.
For survival, I would start researching and make a list of thing you need to buy, then go through your house and make sure you don’t already have those things. We probably have five or six pocket knives, and plenty of candles and batteries. Some people think they have to buy a multi-tool or an extra set of hand tools. Chances are you have them already. Start getting to estate sales and garage sales, and you may be able to pick up a big percentage of what you need for emergency kits for a handful of dollars.You can find a lot of supplies at dollar stores. And use coupons along with stores sales. Try shopping at ethnic grocery stores. Some of the prices are phenomenal. Learn to can or dehydrate. Dehydrating is cheaper, so buy a used dehydrator on Craigslist for probably $20-$30. Then when you get your hands on a decent quantity of produce, dehydrate the food. Canning is great, but you do have to have more supplies.
So is there anything that doesn’t lend itself to dehydrating?
People dehydrate everything! The best thing to do is go online and do some research. I’ve written about it on my blog and in my book, but there are people who dehydrate completely prepared chicken curry. This is huge in backpacking and hiking circles. I have a cookbook by a man in Australia, and they dehydrate everything. You can dehydrate applesauce or canned fruit and make your own fruit roll-ups. You can dehydrate frozen vegetables; so when there’s a big sale, I buy a bunch of them. They’re already prewashed and precut, so literally all you have to do is open the bag and spread them out. After dehydrating, you’ll need to store it in something like canning jars or Mylar bags.
Is dehydrated food better than frozen?
You have to think about what if the power goes out. Dehydration makes you impervious to power outages. I don’t include food in my freezer in my survival plan. If the power goes out, we cook the frozen food quickly on the grill so it doesn’t spoil.
Why do you think so many people are unprepared for even small emergencies?
That’s my #1 asked question: How can I get my spouse on board. It must be human nature to focus on the here and now and not want to think about things that are unpleasant. Commercials about wills and life insurance allude to the fact that people don’t want to think about death and making a will. A lot is denial, and a lot of it is the time element – they put it off as long as they possible can.
Do you think they don’t believe it will happen to them, or is is that they just don’t know how to get started?
I think there’s an element of that – they figure it won’t happen to them. I also think it sometimes seems overwhelming. Like people on Doomsday Preppers have an entire garage or the whole basement of a 4,0000 square foot home filled with food. It’s overwhelming to think about even getting started.
So they figure the three gallons of water and case of soup they can afford to put away this month won’t matter. . .
Exactly……Small steps are better than no steps at all!