Are you new to preparedness? Ask whatever you want here!

NEWIn some of the other forums that i’ve been apart of over the years, I’ve been more of a lurker than a contributor because I was so new to the hobby and didn’t want to feel like the annoying new kid who has a million basic questions. 

But I want to offer my expertise here (anyone else can chime in too!) and make this a safe place where everyone and anyone (even seasoned veterans) can ask any question about preparedness no matter how basic, small, or noobish it may be.

Your question might not be that big of a question to make a whole new forum thread about, but you can ask it here.

I find a lot of joy and satisfaction helping others and sharing what I know, so please ask away 🙂

-Be Prepared-


  • Comments (38)

    • 8

      @Robert Larson Thank you for making this. I am very new to all this, but feel some responsibility to be more prepared and be able to take care of my daughters no matter what happens. One question I have is how likely is it for a disaster to happen to me? I see the occasional earthquake in california on the news, or a hurricane in florida every year, but here in Chicago we only really get the occasional cold spell and some snow. I haven’t had any real disasters happen to me in my lifetime, won’t say how old I am…, but it’s been a few years.

      • 8

        I’m a hardcore prepper –  yet have never experienced a severe crisis… and hope I never do.

        I own my house and have insurance on it & my property – yet have never had any reason to use it.  I actually don’t know anyone that has either.

        I have auto insurance – yet never have needed it.

        I keep fire extinguishers around – yet never have had to put out a fire with one.

        Point being, there are things “normal” people do all the time just to be safe.  To protect yourself from that very rare chance something bad might happen.  You do this so that you don’t lose everything in case of that exceedingly rare event.

        In that light, I prep for the slight chance there might me some event too big for government to solve.  That I might be on my own for a period of time with no one who is gonna come to save me.   

        Were most of the people in Texas prepared for the grid to go down?  Were they prepared for their water to be undrinkable?

      • 5

        @Redneck I like that idea of thinking about being prepared as a form of insurance policy. 

      • 8

        Hi Jessica! 

        I agree with what Redneck said. Prepping is more of a form of insurance. We can’t always rely on ‘the system’ to always be there for food, water, power, etc…

        While many of us have never gone through a major disaster, we can’t get into the mindset of saying “Oh, that’ll never happen to me.” Not saying you are saying that, but we need to be careful not to.

        I think the more likely disaster to happen to each of us is a personal disaster. I’ve known so many people who have lost a job or had an unexpected large expense and they were able to rely on their food and water storage to make it through that challenge. 

        It’s admirable of you to want to be more prepared and to be able to take care of your children. That would be so heartbreaking to see them hungry and not having a way to feed them if something were to happen. 

        So I would prepare for the worst, and if you never have to use that ‘insurance’, then consider yourself very blessed and lucky. 

        Start off with building your food and water storage. Could even be a bit here and a bit there. Every bit helps! Also, having a good emergency fund and some money squirreled away is smart for those unexpected expenses. Doing so will help you to stay out of debt which is freeing and comforting.

        -Be Prepared-

      • 9

        @Robert Larson you are right, I never want my girls to go hungry. Hence, one of the reasons i’m getting into this lifestyle. 

      • 10

        Hi Jessica,

        We are just trying to emerge from a global pandemic. As bad as it was, it could easily have been much more deadly and/or contagious. I’m sure I know why this isn’t talked about more on these boards and I won’t go into it but suffice to say that is just one possibly.

        Lots of folks I think get hung up on the ‘survivalist’ connotation. Running through the woods knife in teeth, end of the world zombie fighting, etc. Mostly I find prepping much more mundane.

        The most likely disaster to happen to most of us is unemployment or whatever type of economic upheaval—perhaps as a result of a pandemic. Everyone who participates in the economy is subject to its whim. Even a delayed deposit for whatever reason or a big storm could delay a trip to the grocery.

        As a kid I worked in construction, it had a season, in the off season I had no income so I “prepared” during the “on” season. Bought extra food, saved some cash, prepaid some rent, etc. No paracord, no everyday concealed carry, no flint and steel, just a pantry and savings.

        I think if you are looking here you realize having a little ‘put by’ is a good idea. You only need to do as much as you are comfortable, a dozen cans of Spaghetti Os and a case of waters makes you more resilient than you were.

        Good luck!

      • 8

        @Pops what you have described is the kind of prepping that i’m interested in. I don’t think i’ll be able to survive long camping in the woods, so i’m not even going to get near that end of preparedness. I’m more of the save money, store up some food, and be able to safely evacuate to a shelter somewhere. Thanks for bringing this up.

      • 7

        Jessica, Chicago is famous (infamous?) for severe weather and the lightning storm. Do the kids know about the danger of using an umbrella during lightning storms?  Do the kids know about substitute arrangements, a hood on jacket ?, a special hat ?

        That large vessel on the Lake … money is tight due the economy (Exxon Veldez didn’t have all instruments in working conditions) and … cal it bumper cars … the vessel’s cargo is starting to blow southward. Are you and kids prepared for respiratory matters pending ? The electricity is out and no water in dwelling and it’s getting cold.  Do kids understand what’s going on ?

        If you must leave dwelling due a mandatory evacuation, what bag will you carry with extra socks, rubber boots and some vanilla Clif bars next to the first aid kit ?

        It’s getting hot and the municipal budget cuts means that poor dog hit by the car is still outside and the mosquitoes …….. It’s too hot to stay inside with no electricity and someone just said the mosquitoes have that disease called … It should be on the news.  Have the kids load batteries into the AMFMSW radio and…..

        The insurance industry has statistics on probabilities. For the private sector prepper, the common denominators are about the same whether living on Lakefront Drive, 20 miles southwest or a different area of our national fruited plain.

      • 6

        My emergency wasn’t a natural or man made disaster, but financial. My company was bought out and I took a 56% pay cut. I looked for a new job but at the time no one was hiring or if they where I wouldn’t make enough to support my family. 

        Six months later my well stocked pantry was bare and we where Ramen at least one meal a day if not two. I started telling my kid I wasn’t hungry right then, I’ll eat later. 

        At six months I also finally found a second job so I could support us.  I told myself that wouldn’t happened again and that’s why I prep. I’ll always be grateful that I was a frugal shopper and bought in big quantities when there where sales so I was able to last that six moths buying very little groceries but have taken it up a notch. 

        When the pandemic hit and I was laid off for five months and my unemployment didn’t come in we where well fed. Won’t mention how long it took me to get my utilities caught up so I have more to learn. I literally had 5 dollars to my name when my unemployment finally came through and a week later I was back to work. 

      • 7

        Michael, our Rosetta Stone – our key to learning about preparedness – is in term “Ramen”. “Ramen” symbolizes the first step of the prepper journey.

        The rest is knowledgeable labor activated to avoid repeat experiences.

        Also experienced the “five dollar” situation. 

        Add to prepper efforts a program for kid to learn all this stuff.

      • 7

        Thanks Michelle, I always think the emergency most likely is the Pink Slip.

        I’ve been self-employed for many years, I do print graphics, county fairs and events mostly, I’ve billed very little the last 10 months because there are no events. Theoretically independents were eligible to receive unemployment in WA but I was repeatedly, automatically denied, and in 10 months was never able to speak to a human. 

        We had some savings, owned our home and use no credit so have a relatively small nut to crack but eventually we broke down and took our social security rather than use up our savings entirely. I was totally grateful to have SocSec available although I had not planned to take it for several more years.

        I also always say Armageddon is not a signal to go shop, and the whole idea of prepping is to have your shopping done beforehand, but the day news came of the first community spread case of COVID I hit the big discount grocer and Amazon with a vengeance. It was weeks before I started to hear of distribution problems but we had spent the time filling out the shelves, starting some seeds for a garden and killing the back lawn.

        I also use Azure Standard from time to time and made a big order of grains to put back. Azure is a great resource for bulk foods, organic if that’s your thing but the price is better than anything else I’ve found. The deliver by truck, once a month to public locations all over the US, you just show up and they hand you your order.

        Glad you made it through!

      • 3

        @Pops thanks for the link to the Azure Standard. I am going to check that out because I want to buy bulk organic foods, but not spend my entire paycheck on them like Whole Foods is making me do right now.

      • 7

        @Michelle thank you for sharing your inspirational story. It helped convince me even further to build up my food storage and have some extra money set aside. Job security has always been a huge stress for me. At any time my company might go out of business, I could get fired, I could get injured and no longer be able to work there, or various other factors. And then pretty much your life is set back to zero, no income and no way to pay for things like food or utilities. Ugh…. just talking about it is working me up and stressing me out! And when I’ve tried to find a new job, it always takes months. I wish things weren’t so hand-to-mouth. But I’m trying to build up my food and financial reserves so that I can make it through hard times when they come.

    • 7

      What are some long term food sources that can live on a shelf for a long time (no refrigeration) and don’t require being heated up on a stove or microwave? 

      • 10

        Granola bars and those related such as Clif.

        Honey with pack of disposable spoons small plastic bag next to it (Not for California)

        Sardines with same support items like plastic bags.  Canned kippers, baker’s chocolate, check some of the dark chocolates. Cans of pinapple chunks, slices, When time permits, wander around a Walmart grocery section and just browse. Avoid the esoteric.  Get stuff kids will appreciate. Sample ahead of emergency for familiarization.

        My always with me is tree nut s repacked in a plastic 16 oz container.

      • 7

        While powdered milk takes some getting used to the taste, that could be a great source of calories, fat, and protein. Maybe have some Nesquik chocolate powder to turn it into chocolate milk.

        Canned soups, meat, vegetables, and fruit can be eaten without heat and last for years. I’ve eaten a 3 year expired can of green beans before and it tasted great.

        Granola bars and poptarts. Although those are mostly sugars.

        Dehydrated fruit and beef jerky lasts quite a long time if unopened. Keep in a cool dark cupboard to extend the life.

        Trail mix

        Those are just a few off the top of my head. What do you guys like eating in your normal day to day lives? Try and see if there is a shelf stable version of that available. 


      • 6

        Robert, have you ever tried Morning Moos?  I find it tastes much better than powdered milk.  I keep a couple of big pails of it in storage that I bought at Sam’s Club.

      • 8

        I haven’t heard of Morning Moos. Thank’s for the suggestion, i’ve added it to the grocery list. 

        I’ll take anything that’s better than the cheap nasty powdered milk.

      • 9

        We have sweetened condensed milk. There is also a product called Coffee and Milk which is coffee with sweetened condensed milk (just add water). I am not going without coffee. Personally powdered milk is a dangerous in my house. Can’t stand it in liquid form, but I love eating in dried form

      • 8

        Robert, even if i cultivate my land and have enough fruits and vegetables the whole year, I never started to grow wheat or other grains because it needs much space and work. The other reason is, that flour can held up to 10 years or more if you store it correct. The amount of work by hand is for wheat not in relation.

        My personal hint: make bread out of chestnut and combine with pumpkin.  It tastes great and you just have to pick up the chestnut. Big trees have often more than 40kg. Pumpkins are easy to cultivate and grow big.

        I have plenty of olive oil from our garden.

        It serves with high calories, even better to digest if you are on keto diet. 

      • 10

        Jessica, there are two main concepts in food storage.  First is to just buy more of what you already eat and keep it rotated so that you always eat the oldest first.  This way you always have several weeks worth of food on hand. Other way is to keep certain staple items in long term storage… items that can last 25-30 years & still be good.

        I personally eat almost no canned or pre prepared food, so my extra foods are in the freezers.  I understand in a grid down situation, those won’t last very long.  Therefore, I keep rather huge quantities of staples in long term storage, to include items such as wheat berries, rice, beans, pasta, oats & powdered milk.  I also keep many cases of Spam in my storage.  I don’t eat that too much currently because it is rather unhealthy for a modern diet.  However, in a crisis, we will be searching for such high fat & high salt foods.  It can be eaten straight from the can & if stored properly, can last almost forever.

      • 9

        Peanut butter is yummy, full of fat and protein and little water so lasts way beyond its expiry.

        But rather than dedicated “storage” food just buy some extra of what you already buy. Do it a little at a time, a few cans of green beans here, an extra bag of spagetts there. The advantage is feeding the kids what they are used to eating in bad times, cooking what you are used to in stressful times and, best of all there is no way to regret your purchase because you can always just use it up.

        Once you get to the level you want, a week’s worth, a month, whatever, just “go shopping” for your cupboard from the pantry, then restock the pantry from the store. 

        Store what you use, use what you store.


      • 6

        Canned items are good for long term storage providing you store them in a cool location. Regardless of expiry date, canned goods will lose shelf life. This link is from U of Minnesota extension services about storing canned food and what to watch for regarding safety of canned goods:

        UMN Extension Services

        Canned pork n beans, pasta, even soup can be mixed with water and eaten a room temperature if necessary. If safe to do so a votive candle can warm these items a bit and make them more palatable (as can a supply of seasonings).

        Don’t forget top quality can opener (I have backups also)

        I try to spread my food storage among a variety of stored items: canned, dried, and frozen. This way if it is cold off the shelf, no problem. If there is limited ability to cook, also no problem.

        My plan is to add freeze-dried food items due to their fast preparation from that state to edible. This is great for items such as legumes. They also have longevity of storage and nutritional value.  I also like that it is possible to access protein and healthy carbohydrates like legumes, fruit and vegetables in individual containers. 

        It is important to note that there is a difference between freeze-dried food items and zip sealed items. Both are long term storage. It is really important to note storage date changes once the container is opened, and write the open date on the container so you can keep track of it.

        I also keep protein stack which can be mixed with water or milk. I use Lean Fit from Costco, but there are other brands as well. Check the label for ingredients and nutrition. You can use the Lean Fit label to get an idea of what should be in a good quality protein stack. The idea is to have a good easy source of protein accessible.

        One caution on the protein stack, some people react via their bowel to it and may be able to use it under normal conditions. It would be wise to ensure that everyone can use it.

        This would be another reason to use or try  much of what you store, to ensure there are no food sensitivities or adverse (gut) reactions by anyone in the family.

        Protein bars area another source, but check the labels carefully. PB & Me which is a powdered peanut butter with the fat removed could be another protein source. I get mine from Costco, and other stores carry it. Nuts should be stored in a cool place to prevent rancidity from the nut oils.
        I store nuts in the fridge or freezer.

        I also have a good supply of Gatorade, gingerale and juice in addition to water for treating dehydration, whether from heat, humidity or illness.

        Treat items as was mentioned by Bob – like chocolate, can be good for morale in a crisis. There are other treat items that won’t spike and crash blood sugars and leave the person more hungry. 

      • 10

        Yes! Make sure you have a can opener and maybe a good backup as well.

        We just did a blog post about opening cans without a can opener, and it really is just so much easier to have a spare. Plan ahead and be prepared.

      • 4

        I’m checking out the blog post, Gideon, in case my “spares” malfunction.

        Thank you.

      • 6

        Good morning Gideon, Just read the blog on opening cans. I’m not that fond of pinapple rings and pinapple chunks but they come with the pop-up lid so have a stockpile of this culinary delight. Sometimes for arthritic or injured hands, even the pop top lid needs a screwdriver or chisel assistance.

        There is a method … I have no monopoly on this method … to open a cork-sealed wine bottle without a corkscrew.  It yields a fine wine with a floating garnish. 

        Chef’s knife method also works on beer cans.

    • 6


      i spent all night reading the articles here and I feel a bit better knowing you guys are out there. we have safety bags in our vehicles, some weeks of bland but sustaining food saved in our pantry. my house is old, I believe it was built in 1840 so I have a shallow, dug well. soon after I bought the house last year, a messed up neighbor threw two cats inside. there was only some plywood over the top and I hadn’t gotten around to working on it. i installed lights and cameras soon after, as well as a UV bacteria filter, but I’ll never drink that water again. Is my best option to just buy a few gallons everytime I’m out? we are, not quite poor, but bottom-middle class, so I don’t know of an affordable way to source water that’s financially feasible and something I can do myself.

      I’m just very aware that without a generator, the pump won’t pull water up from the well and the UV filter certainly won’t do it’s thing. sorry if I wandered off a bit, my question is, how do people build a supply of water when there is no easy source?

      thank you kindly for all of the info on this site. it’s given me some much needed direction in what I need to work on to prepare.

    • 5

      Will vacuum sealing offer the same protection to food, as a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, such as rice, beans, flour?  I am trying to avoid the bugs that infest these packages.

      • 5

        IMO, both will kill the bugs.  The Mylar method is a better storage method.  Another thing you can do is freeze your food for a day or two prior to sealing.  That will most certainly kill the bugs.

      • 5

        Kim, I’m with redneck on freezing to kill the eggs. 

        Mylar’s advantage over plain poly bags is low oxygen and moisture permeability. So long term mylar is probably best and thicker mylar is better. But there are so many brands of poly it might be hard to know for sure. Mylar info

        Vacuum vs O2 absorber: I guess you could actually do both—in a mylar bag! I don’t have a vacuum sealer tho so I use the heaviest mylar bags I can find, and extra O2 absorbers. If the mylar bag collapses a little I figure it is good. Bigger stuff like whole corn has a lot of air so I put in more O2 absorb.

    • 5

      Question – can anyone tell me the difference between the light my fire scout vs army firesteel? (Apart from price)

      • 6

        The light my fire scout is much thinner than the army model and will give you 3,000 strikes compared to 12,000 with the army model. (I actually was looking this up the other day because I need a new firesteel). And for only $6 more, that is quite a better deal.

        I’d recommend getting the bright orange colored one. You don’t want to lose your fire starter in the snow or brush. I like to replace the included string with a bright orange or pink piece of paracord for additional visibility.

    • 5

      I’ve got a water storage question.  After some reading on this site I decided to get a 50 gallon water barrel and a bunch of 5 gallon containers. I wanted some variety to avoid having all my eggs in one basket.  I have two options for where to put them, a garage and a crawl space.  The crawl space is about 8’x16′ and tall enough for a short person (me!) to stand up in.  Its completely concrete, no dirt floor or anything. I’ve put my 5 gallon containers down there on top of a broken down cardboard box to keep them off the cement.  The access hole is only about 3’x3′ so i cant put them on a pallet. I also threw a black plastic garbage bag over the top because there is a small window and I wanted to make sure they weren’t getting light. I feel like I probably dont have any problems for the small jugs but if you see one, please point it out.  

      The 50 gallon barrel is my garage. The house keeps it warm enough to be just above freezing in the winter, but its pretty hot in the summer.  What concerns me the most is that my lawn mower, a gas can and some paint cans are in the garage too.  I hadnt known until today that it’s not recommended to have them in the same area as my water. Is there a safe distance when keeping potable water and a gas can in the garage? Or do I just need to dump the water barrel and stick with my smaller water jugs?

      Thanks so much for reading all that, and for any advice you can give.

      • 6

        I’m not an expert in this field, but would like to give it a stab!

        First off, great job with the mix of a large 50 gallon barrel and a few other 5 gallon containers. That is smart to have your water in two different locations and in two different form factors. That crawl space sounds great and the 5 gallon containers in there with a plastic bag on top and cardboard underneath should keep them safe.

        As for the 50 gallon barrel, I wouldn’t throw it out but would do an experiment with it. Fill it up properly and take a smell and drink test every 6 months. If it is contaminated with gas odors, I’m sure you will smell and taste it. Since there is more risk for that barrel to come in contact with chemicals, I would try to do a bit more than cardboard with that one. Cardboard will still absorb any spills and will transfer it to the plastic of the barrel that will absorb those chemicals. A pallet should be great or even a 2X4 board. And it doesn’t hurt to throw a black plastic garbage bag over your water barrel too, maybe it will offer some protection against fumes and things getting in touch with the barrel plastic.

        I would make sure that your gas can is in good shape where you can’t smell any gasoline when it’s all closed up. This means that it’s air tight and not giving off fumes. (good for the environment, your lungs, your water barrel, and extends the life of your gas). Don’t turn your car on in the garage unless the door is open, and then get out quickly and don’t warm it up in there. Same goes with your lawn mower, try and start and stop it far away from the garage. Your goal is to prevent as many fumes getting into the garage. Placing the water barrel and gasoline things in the garage as far away from each other as you can in the garage will help as well. 

        And you may want to cycle through your water in that barrel once a year just to be safe. Use it to water the lawn or  wash the car. 

        One last thing to consider is that if you do have a cold spell and it does drop the temps below freezing in your garage, will it burst your barrel from freezing? See all the stuff that happened in Texas this year! Maybe put a movers blanket as insulation around it during the winter, but beware of mice wanting to make a nest in the soft cotton fabric.

        What are your thoughts Sleepwalker? do you feel like it’ll be safe in the garage?

      • 2

        That sounds pretty smart to me.  I hadnt thought about the cardboard absorbing spills and holding them against the barrel. 

        My gas can definitely needs to be replaced, once its warm enough that grass needs to be mowed I’ll have to pick one up.  It’s been empty all winter so I dont need to rush.  

        Honestly hadn’t thought about a super cold spell.  Our temperatures get into the teens pretty often in the winter.  In the 5 or 6 years we’ve lived here, our garage has been pretty consistently just above freezing in the winter. I’m laughing now that in my attempt to be prepared for an emergency I didnt think about what an emergency (like freaky cold weather) would do to my preparedness.   It looks like I’ll have to drain a bit of water to make sure I’m prepared for it to freeze. 

        I really appreciate you taking the time to help with this.  You gave me great advice. It’s nice that people here are helpful and dont laugh when people like me ask what are probably obvious questions.

      • 2

        I remember that The Prepared had an article about the best gas cans. I certainly need to update mine too. It was a well done article and gave some good facts.

        And don’t be too harsh on yourself. You sound like you are a super smart prepper and are doing more than 90% of people. I think water expands like 15% when frozen, so I’d fill your barrel about 80% or maybe 90% if you are able to insulate it a bit or don’t think it will freeze all the way (which it hasn’t in the past 6 years).

        And no laughing over here. That was a real question and one that took me quite a while to think about how to answer. Thanks for the head scratcher!