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An observation on prepping in 2022

Two years of Covid 19 and the shortages of everything from food to lumber, people basically locked down for months on end, economic chaos that followed, Everything more expensive etc.

That event alone seriously stifled the mocking voices who laughed at those of us who were wise enough to get involving with prepping.

Then just as Covid 19 started to fade from the news along comes the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the mad panic to rearm by NATO, The conflict itself and the growing wave of sanctions plunged the world back into a situation once again of shortages of energy, food, fuel and raw materials, massive price rises, security threats and risks. 

OPEN threats of nuclear weapons being used, mass migration from the east have followed.  The global economy taking yet another pounding, tax rises are inevitable, already wheat, animal feed, diesel, fertiliser, nickel, titanium etc prices are rocketing and shortages announced.

In my country energy prices have risen FOURTEEN times faster than wages already, the combined gas and electricity bill for the average British house has gone up from around £1200 to £1900 and is forecast to get as high as £4500 by October.    Petrol has rocketed up in days from £1.45 a litre to £1.70 a litre.

All rather grim reading I’m sorry to say, BUT  The mocking of preppers has stopped all together, and people enquiring about how to get started in prepping / off gridding and homesteading is increasing every day.

Sales of Heritage seeds is UP, people getting Allotments (small food growing plots of land) is UP, people installing WOOD BURNING stoves UP, People caching and stock piling UP, People buying Micro wind turbines and PV panels UP, People selling up and relocating OUT OF TOWN up over 30% according to some UK media sources etc

So my oberservation is this

” Why does it take TWO global crises to make people wake to to the vulnerability of society to disruption, and for them to see the benefits of prepping”.

A report I read about two years ago estimated that 30 million of you folks in the Americas are into prepping in one form or another. I think that number is likely to rise now.

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  • Comments (36)

    • 7

      I expect you’re very correct and that interest in prepping will or has increased quite a bit. There’s certainly been an uptick in some related skills, like canning. 

      On a personal level, I’ve had an extremely basic emergency kit in my car forever and I’d tend to buy a few extra dry goods before snowstorms (it’s Canada), but the onset of COVID-19 in January 2020 was what caused me to first start taking emergency preparedness more seriously. 

      As to your observation and “why?”, I think there are a few things:

      • A worrying amount of the population (in North America at least) is unfortunately still living pay cheque to pay cheque and may not have the funds or time to devote to prepping. I would put a lot of emphasis on this.
      • ‘sane prepping’/emergency preparedness is often less visible than doomsday prepping in the media, and can be associated with those on the far right. I only found the topic approachable once things like The Prepared came along (since I knew of Stokes from being a longtime Ars Technica reader).
      • A lot of the population is very urbanized. If you’re an apartment dweller, it can be difficult to buy goods in bulk or store some of the extra gear that may be helpful only in an emergency situation. Or, when you think of typical emergencies (floods, fires, extended power outages), you know there are a number of nearby shelter options (fire department, community centre, etc.) that would be activated in case of emergency (or friends and family) and prepping doesn’t really occur to you as something that’s necessary or worthwhile. I’ve tended to feel this way myself.
      • 3

        I’ve been less reserved with telling people that I prepare. I feel like less of that weirdo and that society is more accepting and sort of admires those who prepare. The Prepared has significantly helped me to change my own personal mindset of HOW to prepare. Less of the doomsday only stock up on guns and ammo and more on buying some extra food here and there and looking at what is most likely to happen to me.

        I can’t remember if it was a comment I read on the forum here or a news article, but I heard that solar panels are in high demand right now for those in California who are just tired of their power being shut off during wild fire season. More and more people are starting to see that some of the basics of being prepared is a rational and smart thing to do.

      • 3

        Maybe this one from NYT earlier this week? It was interesting.

      • 2

        That looks like the one! Good find.

      • 3

        Thanks for finding that article, @atlanticrando! I left CA before the PG&E wildfire outages became a thing, so I’m worried about dealing with that when we inevitably move back. We have solar on our house there but it’s grid-connected (though I suppose we could change that).

        @Robert, I think I’m also more comfortable telling people that I prep now and do so more readily. And @atlanticrando, I think you hit the nail on the head with all three of your reasons that (at least in North America) preparedness isn’t something that people prioritize.

      • 3

        Sarah, battery tech right now is as cheap as it may ever be. Price has been steadily falling but with the ramping up of EVs and REs and now problems with RU and China (who produce the majority of metals needed) they may be hard to get in the future. I purchased rack-mount batteries, fully sealed in a steel box. They are very neat and self contained, fit in a rack like those pictures of computer servers you’ve seen. Each of these holds 5Kwh of power.

        The average home uses about 15kWh a day with clothes dryer and air conditioning and water heating. When PGE shuts off the juice I can see each of these powering everything else for a day. And of course in a long term outage (for whatever reason) they’d allow you to keep the lights on, even at night!

        As well the controller you already have is likely already set up to charge them.

      • 2

        @Pops, your comment feels prophetic now… whatever prices are doing now they’re probably higher. GTK that the controller could probably be battery-linked. I’ll cross this bridge when we re-inhabit the house… thanks (belatedly— this notification got buried in my email) for the tips!

      • 3

        Thanks Sarah. Tesla is a good canary, it has raised prices several times since March because of battery, chips, supply-line issues: $6,000 on their high end cars! Link

        I read some smart people who say renewable electricity can never replace fossils, for a variety of reasons. Maybe that’s true in the long run but until Mr. Fusion comes along it (PV) is the best bet for a personal energy infrastructure.

    • 4

      That’s OK.  When things get ‘better’, people will go back to their old habits and sell off their stuff at a discount.  Remember Y2K?

      • 2

        Will it ‘get better’ or ‘go back to normal’? Many of the issues we are facing now are not ones I see going away anytime soon. I wish we could have a break and have a breather, but seems like they keep coming and coming.

    • 2

      Very insightful observations there Bill, everything you have said seems to be right on point with what I’m seeing as well. But is gas and electricity bills for the average British house really 1900 pounds? That is seriously ridiculous. And if it does get to 4500, how are people going to have enough to pay rent or groceries? 

      I predict that we are going to experience some wacky and disturbing weather this summer… Hope I am wrong but just have a feeling it’s going to happen. Be it earthquake, strong hurricane, or heat waves.

      • 3

        Yes Robert 

        Electricity/gas is now about £1900 per year. Up until March my annual bill was around £1200 now it is £1850! 

        The kWh unit price is up but the daily ‘standing charge’ has nearly doubled, so even cutting back on usage, as many people are starting to do, only gets you so far.

        The domestic tariffs are ‘capped’ the government sets a maximum that can be charged per kWh, this maximum is based on a 6 month average of wholesale prices. These prices started to climb towards the end of 2021 and the current situation is pushing them even higher. The ‘fix’ option I was given at the beginning of March was £2700 p.a. so I’m expecting the October cap to rise to at least match this. We will know in September if they will climb to the £4500 Bill mentioned, if they do it is going to mean a lot of people facing fuel poverty (in the UK this is defined as having to spend more than 10% of income on total fuel use).

      • 2

        Yes the average combined energy bill has risen from around £1250 to £1900, and in October 22 the government and enetrgy companies fear it will rise to over £4000.  I expect VIOLENT large scale civil unrest in the UK this fall, as basically the government cannot actually do anything that wont make things much worse for the UK as a whole.

      • 2

        Thank you both for your answers. That is very discouraging and heartbreaking to hear people going through hardships like that. It will lead to people not turning on their furnace as much as they should, possibly undercooking food for fear of using too much fuel, and taking miserably cold showers that just aren’t fun.

        A good forum post idea could be to help educate people on how to ration and be efficient with their utilities. Turning off the lights when not needing them, unplugging devices from the wall when not needed, lowering the maximum temperature on the hot water heater thermostat, turning off the water in the shower while you lather your body with soap. It may be hard for people to invest in an entire solar generation system to go off-grid, or like Bill mentioned having wood stoves installed is getting to be expensive and hard to come by because of the demand, but we all can learn to be efficient and reduce our energy consumption in little ways that can help.

      • 2

        Good idea but my attention is currently focused on (A)  Ukraine / Putin .  (B) The UK media today warning of violence civil unrest if the government triers to impliment another lock down (C) Wild rumours UNCONFIRMED that the UK MAY announce a state of emergency over the energy crisis. (D) the warnings about further Civil Unrest in the fall if energy costs rise to the forcecast £4000 PA level. 

        The cost of filling my vehicle has risen by $28 a week its now $10.77 a gallon. I’m reckoning on a summer of discontent in the UK and EU

      • 2

        I totally understand and there are many larger monsters lurking in the future than saving a few pennies on electricity by unplugging your TV. I hope all goes well and things can mellow out for you guys over there.

      • 2

        Maybe I’m reading all of this wrong but 1900 pounds for electricity per year would be about $166 per month in the US. That’s cheap. I’ve paid over $500 a month at times in mid winter (granted it was a big, poorly insulated house). $166 where I live is average summer electricity prices in a normal economy. Are we just getting majorly screwed here in the US in general?

      • 1

        You are getting ripped off.

        Roughly over here its jumped by very roughly 46% over night for BOTH Gas and Electricity. Local Taxes have gone up by 4% , Fuel is £8 a gallon Diesel higher. National Taxes are going up as well

      • 2

        THANK YOU Coaster! I don’t know where my mind was but I was thinking it was PER MONTH. That makes much more sense if it’s per year. And looking back at the conversation that is what was said. 

        giphy

        I feel dumb now!

        Okay, looking at things now that is pretty cheap. For my house during the winter months we are spending about $275/month in gas and electricity. That comes out to $3300/year which is 2500/year in British Pounds. So actually I would take the energy prices people are getting charged over there right now. 

        4500/year GBP would equal about $6000/year USD. So that would be pretty rough and about double what I am paying now.

        Thank you for catching my mistake!

      • 3

        I also thought it was 1900 per month and I was SHOCKED that anyone could afford that! I am on “budget billing”, meaning my utilities even out the bills over the course of a year so I don’t pay a lot in one season and a little in another.  I live in a very energy-efficient home and am mindful of my use. My electric bill runs ~$1700 a year, gas ~$1600, and water/sewer ~$1275.  I did turn down my water heater and have changed my thermostat settings to save fuel more out of a sense of “wanting to do my part” to reduce dependence on foreign oil than really desperately needing to pinch pennies – but I can see that if the “base charge” is fixed like Bill said it would be demotivating to do those things.

      • 2

        Well math isn’t my strong suit so I’m just happy I actually did the math right lol. I’m guessing if people in Europe aren’t used to paying anything near what we do it has to be a hard hit. It really makes me wonder why everything is so incredibly expensive in general here in the US in general though. 

      • 5

        IS everything “so incredibly expensive in general”? I am not convinced of that. In many ways I think we have gotten very spoiled. Example: I just bought a wonderful sweater for $120. Beautifully styled, wonderful dye, super-soft yarns, delivered straight to my doorstep.

        If I had tried to make such a sweater it would have taken me – years? I would have had to raise the goats (cashmere!), harvest the plants to derive the dye, and knit for – months (because I’m a terrible knitter), and it wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful as what I got.

        I’ve found that if I look at things through eyes of gratitude vs. eyes of scarcity I have a very different perspective. Sure, my water is over a thousand dollars a year. And SO WORTH IT. I am healthy because of that water. I have clean clothes, safe food, and I am both hydrated and showered. Meanwhile Ukrainians are dying of dehydration in bombed cities because of lack of access to water.

        I do not see what we have here as expensive. I see it as valuable. Having the life I want is not free. Should it be? I personally don’t think so. Scarcity forces us to prioritize, which is part of the adventure of being human.  

      • 2

        Prices have been going up significantly over the past two years. I have been working on updating many of the articles here on The Prepared and have noticed that about 90% of things have raised 20-50%. I just finished the Best gas mask and respirator article and probably because of the scare with possible Russian nukes, many of the options have more than doubled in price and were sold out everywhere. 

        That being said… Even after having a gas mask double from $200 to $400, it still is a great deal and value in a toxic situation like M.E. says.

      • 4

        M.E. You’re so right. I find myself flip flopping between being annoyed that things are more expensive & feeling grateful to have everything we have here. Just last night in a fb group someone from another country posted a photo of his food storage & how happy it made him, it was like 8 cans of sardines & coconut milk. My first thought was wow, we’re so lucky & spoiled here in the US. I’ve gone through hard financial times when I was younger where food insecurity was an issue so I need an occasional reminder that I’ve got it pretty darn good now.

      • 1

        In the U.S. we tend to build rather large homes that are more expensive to heat and cool, drive bigger and less fuel efficient cars, and have bigger and less fuel efficient appliances. Also, big chunks of the U.S. get miserably hot in the summer and/or incredibly cold in the winter, so you need to run the heat and AC more often than I suspect folks tend to do in the U.K., which means the effect of having larger homes on energy usage is even more pronounced. Also, lots of the U.S. is very rural and our public transit is generally shoddy, so we drive those bigger, less fuel-efficient cars around a lot.

        I suspect these factors go a long way toward explaining the perception (that I am detecting in this thread, i.e.) that we spend a lot on energy in the U.S. I’m seeking an explanation because my understanding (also reflected in experience when I’ve traveled in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe) is that it’s actually the opposite— most European countries have historically taxed fuel at a much higher rate than the U.S. and been more aggressive in encouraging efficiency measures to reduce fuel use in home heating and cooling, as well as in requiring fuel efficiency in vehicles. This is how countries behave when they have to import all their oil, and importing all your oil also makes you more vulnerable to price shocks like we’re seeing now. So while I totally get that a lot of people in the U.S. and the U.K. are facing new levels of economic hardship due to energy prices, I think folks in the U.K. have always paid more to fill their tanks and heat and cool their homes on a per unit basis than we have, and to the extent that we perceive ourselves as “paying more” in the U.S. generally, it’s because we tend to use a lot of units.

      • 2

        Very insightful. A book that’s worth a read is “The Geography of Nowhere“. Our suburban lifestyle with no public transportation wasn’t an accident. Read the book to learn more!

        I travel often in Europe, where gas prices are typically double what they are in the US. Who SAID gas should be cheap? Every time I drive across my state I think about the pioneers who would have given their eyeteeth to be able to travel so conveniently for such very long distances.

        Preparedness is patriotic (no matter what country you’re from). Imagine how much more resilient a country would be if EVERYONE – every single citizen – had a minimum of two weeks’ supplies on hand for an emergency (and preferably six months or more).  Then, if a foreign aggressor took down your utility infrastructure, or hacked your gas pipelines, or if there were a weather event that made it impossible to get city water for a few days – there would be a whole lot of nothing. A whole lot of people saying “Well I guess I’d better hit my pantry for my stored water” instead of riots at gas stations and chaos at hardware stores.  

        We would ALL be better off if we helped our neighbors, and our community, and our overall governments to support everyone in becoming more resilient.  If a foreign aggressor does take down my water supply, I’d rather my neighbors react by having community cookouts than by grabbing their guns and going house to house to see who has stuff they can steal.  

        Which response is more likely to help the country survive an external attack?

      • 1

        @M.E. — I read that book in college. I think it had been around a while by then, but Kunstler was definitely pretty zeitgeisty in my set. (My husband says the same— we were in similar majors in different public universities in the same state system in the early aughts, when geopolitics was really putting a spotlight on U.S. energy consumption.) I also remember the first time I went abroad (with my dad, when I was a teenager) and he pointed out the gas prices, how we could take the train everywhere, the size of the refrigerators in the homes, etc., and explained that these things were all related. 

        I like what you say about… can we call it collective self-sufficiency? That’s sort of my vision for prepping. I’ve been thinking about it lately because we just had an incident on our block and it reminded me (1) how important it is to know one’s neighbors, and (2) how good I have it in the neighbors department here. (Compared to back in California, where the house we own is in exactly the kind of car-dependent suburban hellscape Kunstler laments, and all the neighbors keep to themselves. I like to joke that the only place you can walk to is a gas station, which the least useful sort of store to visit on foot.)

      • 2

        We would all benefit if we were more like the Swiss with their impressive civil defence programs, and the Mormon church CLS and their inherent leaning towards preparedness.

    • 2

      You’re exactly right, I was a prepper before, but all of this has prompted me to step things up a gear and get more supplies, consider chickens, think of long term survival, and even start my own website here dedicated to British preppers, as I think the American prepper scene is totally different, from the foods and places to go to all the guns they can have.

      Check it out here if you’re interested in UK based prepping: https://britishprepper.com/

      Having said what you’ve said though, I still think the vast majority of people are nonethewiser to what is coming and are still woefully unprepared for a major SHTF event whether it’s nuclear war or just daily life costing thousands of pounds more per year. 

      • 1

        you are right BP, most people are woefully unprepared, oh sure, they grizzle and moan at raised prices and stuff but they dont do anything about it.

        you will never get the British public to prepare, they use the supermarkets as their larder and just expect stuff to be on the shelves when they want it then panic when it isnt, Covid taught us that.

    • 2

      I’m in the UK, we have always tried to be sensible with our power usage. We are able to use a variety of fuels. Only our electricity has a standing charge. We do have some electrical heating in the form of a ground source heat pump. We have five wood burning stoves throughout the house as well as a wood burning Rayburn stove. We grow and cut our own firewood and own our LPG tanks so are able to shop around for the best prices. The aim is to fit a photovoltaic system in the near future. Rather than using batteries, energy can also be stored more cheaply as heat in a hot water buffer tank (heat can be drawn off in the form of central heating or hot water) because most of our energy use goes into heating in one way or another. You could say that we’ve been prepping for this scenario for decades.

      As far as Putin is concerned there isn’t much I can do so I’m not going to waste my time on it other than watching carefully for any signs of the conflict spreading.

      I don’t believe there is an accurate assessment of the number of preppers in the UK simply because we tend to play it down, the forums tend to have a lot more silent lurkers than vocal members. We have noticed a lot of townies moving out to the country but I have no issue with them, they’re bringing a welcome influx of cash to the local economy which I will try and make the most of while it lasts.

      • 1

        Six wood burning stoves! That sounds awesome. Do you have any tips on maintaining them? What are you able to do yourself and what do you need to hire out a professional for?

      • 1

        I fitted everything and had it signed off (commissioned) by a heating engineer. 
        I sweep my own flues, the Rayburn has a 6” flue and needs doing regularly while the 10” jotul  flues stay clean as a whistle and get a cursory annual sweep. One of the fires (a coalbrookdale) runs the central heating in part of the house and contributes to the heat in the buffer tank. 

    • 3

      I want to offer a data point I recently learned of that may be of interest.

      Our children have all left our home and most are married with kids. They are all in their 20’s.

      One of our daughters told me that most of the young adults in our area are involved in a semi-organized vegetable gardening effort. It’s in its second year. These are significant gardens, not an herb garden on the window sill. This surprised me.

      She said most of them had come to realize, during COVID, that most illnesses (read comorbidities) can be tracked back to poor food choices; i.e., not enough whole foods and too much processed food or junk food. Coupled with this is their realization of the fragility or brittleness of the transportation supply lines.

      So last year they started large gardens to provide significant portions of their diets. Most of this is organic. This is a lot of work but they have carried it into this year and many more have joined.

      I think this is fantastic and a hopeful sign of the future.

      • 1

        That is uplifting news that they are coming together and working on gardening. 

        I too have been lately working on eating more whole foods and avoiding things that come in a box or a bag with a barcode. Our bodies and genetics have lived off of whole foods for all of human history until the past hundred years or so with manufacturing. I don’t think that our entire genetics, digestive system, and more can adapt within one or two generations to function as properly off of processed foods than it can off of “real food”. Oreos sure are good though and are hard to give up…

      • 2

        “Oreos sure are good though and are hard to give up…”

        Boy, can I identify with that!

        A few years ago, I read a university study that found that table sugar (and all it’s various names) is 8X more addictive than cocaine.

        I broke that addiction for 3 years – it took 2 hard weeks for the sweets craving to stop.

        If the food supply was really screwed up for even a month there would be a lot of really cranky, nasty people without their sugar fix.

      • 2

        3 years is quite the accomplishment! I am realizing just how much of our American diet is chuck-loaded with sugar. Sure cuts out a lot of my favorites.

        The first crowd of angry people during SHTF will be the coffee addicts, then the sugar heads, followed by the cigarette smokers. It’s important to not let these vices take control over you and have control your mood and life. I’m starting to think that phones, internet, and technology is quickly becoming another vice that will make people quite helpless and angry to do without.

        I definitely have my dependencies that I need to work on.