We’ve all heard the term “beans, Band-Aids, and bullets” as the basics you should have in your preps. These focus on food (and water), first aid, and security, all top priorities for preppers. While those are definitely important, there are other items you might not have thought of that can either make life easier or more bearable if the SHTF. Here’s a list of items that come to mind when I think, “What else should I be prepping besides the three B’s?”
Foods that only need water added – I’m sure a lot of you have the emergency foods that fit into this category, but what about the kind that aren’t designated as “emergency” supplies? Dry soups, mac and cheese, pancake mixes, hot cereals, and more can be bought at the grocery store and need only one ingredient: water. We live in the boonies, thankfully, and are thirty minutes from the closest Walmart. With their free shipping for orders over a certain dollar amount, it is more economical for us to have some items delivered. However, it seems like we come up just short of the minimum from time to time so we throw in enough packs of instant chicken noodle soup to reach it. We have quite a bit stockpiled and it’s pretty tasty and will feed us for two meals. I sometimes add some canned chicken and dehydrated mushrooms to change up the flavor. If you are a canner, you can take the skins and cores from tomatoes, dehydrate them, then turn them into a powder with a coffee grinder or food processor. This can be reconstituted with water to make paste, sauce, ketchup, soup, and juice, as well as added to soups for thickening and flavor. Foods that only need water added are some of the smartest and easiest to keep in your preps. It doesn’t have to come from a big supplier, usually with a big price tag, to be designated as emergency supplies.
Jello – If you think this item, that also fits into the above category, isn’t something you should have because you can’t make it if there’s no power, take a look at the nutritional information. One package has 320 calories, eight grams of protein, and almost eighty grams of carbohydrates. Mix it with warm water to dissolve and just drink it! Tasty, quick, and you can drink it on the move. We find it often for fifty cents or less on sale. Just because you can’t gel it, doesn’t mean it isn’t viable in another form. Yes, it’s basically a sugary drink at this point, but I believe it actually works out to be a relatively inexpensive one, and you can’t beat sugar for a little boost of energy.
Instant Coffee and Teas – No serious coffee drinker wants to even think about drinking instant but, if that’s all you had, you’d be glad to have it. I know I would. Instant coffee has an almost indefinite shelf life, at least twenty to thirty years, because it’s freeze dried. Again, this one fits in the first category and can provide the added benefit of a good caffeine jolt. It’s expensive but I get coupons for it from time to time and I try to always get some when I have one. Tea is another thing you can stock that isn’t as pricey and lasts a long time. When you need a hot drink it’s a good alternative. Flavored teas have other added benefits, like chamomile for helping you sleep, mint for digestion, and echinacea for immune system boosting. Elderberry would be especially beneficial with the current flu raging the populace. Having a warm drink on a cold night might just be the ticket.
Hard Candy – We have quite a stock of horehound, cinnamon, peppermint, and lemon drops. It lasts a really long time (I have some I’ve had for ten years or more) and serves multiple purposes. It can help soothe a sore throat, quell a cough, help you produce saliva, or just be a nice sweet treat on a boring beans and rice day. Peppermint particularly is a must since it helps with digestion. It will also help combat the coffee breath from that instant coffee.
Spices – We all know we need salt. Pepper is nice for a little zip. But what else should you have? We have chicken and beef bouillon, which can be used to add some flavor to rice or pasta. No matter what people tell you, spices last a long, long time if kept in airtight containers. I have some I’ve had for twenty years or more and they still flavor food just fine. I use ramen noodles for a few dishes that don’t require the flavor packs and I save all of those as well. Worcestershire sauce is another good one with a long shelf life, and a nice peppy flavor. Look at the health benefits of turmeric, oregano, and cinnamon, just to name a few, and you can see how adding these to your stores just makes sense. There are quite a few that can be purchased for less than a dollar, making it another low budget, high return item. A little goes a long way with most spices.
Zipper Bags – Speaking of airtight containers, these wonders can serve multiple purposes. You can store pretty much anything in them, food or otherwise, wet or dry, and it will be waterproof. Matches, lighters, and candles come to mind. Important papers and maps are other items that should be protected, as well as electronics like phones and tablets. If you’re trudging through the woods, you don’t want to count solely on the waterproof level of your bag to protect these high dollar items which could also be irreplaceable depending on your situation. You can make omelets by throwing your eggs and extras in the bag, shaking it up, and boiling it water for ten minutes. Added benefit – no pan to wash, using what might be precious water. The water could then be reused for the same thing or boiled again and used to drink since it didn’t come into contact with anything but the outside of the bag. I buy a lot with coupons, but you can get them at the dollar store for … well, a dollar. Inexpensive and invaluable, they can be used many times before they break down.
Coffee Filters and Paper Products – Think you have enough toilet paper stashed around the house? Take a moment and figure out how much your household uses in a day. Divide that into the number of rolls you have stored. While it may look like you have plenty because your spare closet is crammed full, if there isn’t any more being made, what you have is all you’ll have. The added bonus is it never goes bad. Same for paper towels and paper plates. While it may seem like you’d be better off using items that you can reuse when you’re done, the other side of that coin is you have to use water to wash them, which might be in short supply. The throw-away versions are a better choice in that situation and they make great fire starter material. Coffee filters can filter sediment out of water and plant matter out of tinctures and teas. They can be used to keep bugs out of drinks or fermenting foods like making your own vinegar. They can be used in place of a plate or bowl for dry food, nuts, berries, and chips just to name a few. They could also be used as a funnel to channel those items into a jar or zipper bag. Either fold them like a taco shell and pour or form a cone and cut the end out of it. By using disposable items early on in a long-term situation, your other items should last you longer.
Straws – So many uses! A standard straw, stuck in a glass of water to about two-thirds of its length, finger over the top to create the vacuum to hold it, is about a teaspoon. If you find yourself need a measurement and don’t have any implements, you could use this method. They can be used as a mini bellows, to direct air to your flame if it needs a little help. Take a zipper bag, fill it with whatever you want to keep, zip it most of the way closed, and insert the straw in the opening. Suck the air out and it’s almost like a food sealer. See how handy those zipper bags are? You can cut them into pieces, crimp the end with a pair of pliers and melt it with a lighter, then fill with spices, medicine, salves, anti-bacterial gel, etc. When you’ve added your item, just use the same process to close the other end. Now, you have single use quantities. Just snip the end off and it’s ready to go. Straws are very inexpensive but can really be an asset when you need to take a large quantity of something and break it down into smaller amounts which could be valuable barter items.
Recipes – If you have favorite recipes you’ve saved in your browser bookmarks, you should go ahead and print them off. I got into the habit of doing this whenever I found one, tried it, and it got the hubby seal of approval. If SHTF, and the internet was inaccessible, you wouldn’t be able to access them, and I don’t know about you but my memory just ain’t what it used to be. Better to use a piece of paper now and, hey, at least we don’t have to write them out like we used to!
Games and Books – After spending a week without power with two young boys, I found out how much we depended on electricity for our entertainment. In a grid down situation, bored kids can make things worse. Decks of cards are cheap, don’t take up a lot of room and there are literally dozens of games you can play with them. Now is a great time to buy some classic board games to have on hand if things went down and you lost access to technology. We don’t have young people in our house anymore, but I still bought a ten-in-one box set that has a lot of different games to play all stored in one place, in case we get tire of reading (is that even possible?) or lose an e-reader. It doesn’t take up much more room than a large book. Speaking of books, have some print versions on hand, especially of your favorites. In a long-term catastrophic scenario, it is entirely possible that your e-reader could crash, and you wouldn’t have a way to access the books anymore. I have over a thousand on mine and I would probably break down and cry if I lost them, but I do have some in paper form I could fall back on. If you have old books you don’t like, go ahead and hang on to those. See the toilet paper point above. Any port in a storm.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR:
P.A. Glaspy is the author of the A Powerless World series of prepper fiction novels, and has recently launched the first book in her new series, Perilous Miles. She is a practicing prepper, though freely admits she has a long way to go to be self-sustaining. You can find out more about her on her website and Facebook. If you are interested in her work, you can view the complete list on Amazon.