Preparedness goes mainstream?

Is it just me or since the “cost of living” crisis hit, preparedness went mainstream?

As preparedness practitioners we used to get called “nutters”, “conspiracy cooks” and worse. The mainstream media would ridicule us and the “authorities” would try and imply we were some sort of threat to ordinary everyday society.

Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash
Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

Well, it seems the tide has turned and preparedness is being rebranded as “money saving tips” and “ways to save money” in the media outlets that were once newspapers, TV or Radio news.

Money saving tips?

There’s nothing much in the media that has come as any big surprise recently to those of us who have been practicing preparedness for everyday life events for a while. A lot of it is common sense, some of it takes a little forward thinking and planning. All of it takes a lot of self-reflecting and asking questions like “do I really need this?” I think a prime example is picking up a morning coffee on your way to work. A typical café latte could set you back £2.85. That doesn’t sound too bad does it, but it adds up to £14.25 a week, or £741 per year. (Now that’s big money)

Of course that pales into insignificance if you smoke twenty cigarettes per day. A packet of twenty could cost you £10.40. That’s £72.80 per week or a massive £3785.60 per year. Even cutting down slightly could yield significant savings.

TV and entertainment subscriptions are another area that could be cut back. Do you really need multiple subscriptions to a number of different services? Do you need to have them all at the same time? You could sign up and cancel with some services and alternate between them if you don’t wish to cancel them altogether. You’ll be surprised once you stop watching TV how much time you free up to do other things.

A change of mindset always helps in these situations. If you really want to make yourself secure from changes in the world, you need to start thinking in terms of what you need rather than what you want. That means going back to basics and starting from scratch.

  • Water (or hydration)
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing (or protection from the weather)
  • Transportation
Hydration

Perhaps the cheapest form of hydration is tap water. Most of us live in areas where water from the tap can be consumed without any further treatment. When in more remote areas using non-water company supply methods, like bore-holes or wells may require further treatment before being used.

In short, you don’t need to spend money on expensive takeaway coffees, energy drinks, sodas, shakes or alcoholic beverages all the time. Sure, have a treat every now and then, but make your coffees and teas at home for a fraction of the price and buy a multiple use travel mug.

The important thing is what the liquid you consume is doing for your body at the minimum price.

Food

It is often so tempting, particularly after a tough day, just to reach for the phone and order a takeaway to be delivered. With the cost of living soaring and fuel prices through the roof, delivery costs are also rising rapidly. However, with a little bit of forward planning you can create home cooked foods at a much lower cost even with the energy costs to cook them taken into account.

Two items of equipment I really would suggest are “must have” bits of kit are:-

  • Slow cooker
  • Dutch oven

Of the two I would suggest the slow cooker would be the more important if money is tight. Prior to acquiring my slow cooker, I would cook meals in a number of pans on the hob of the stove. Not only did this use multiple gas rings, but it also created far more washing up to do than I wanted. (I’m not keen on washing up.)

So when the slow cooker came along, not only did I have whole meals cooked in a single pot, but I could cook meat and vegetables together to produce nutritious, tasty meals with minimal effort.

The slow cooker. It’s a fire it up and forget method.

However the slow cooker really comes into its own when you start to cook batches of meals. I tend to fill the slow cooker as much as I can for a meal. It’s more efficient to cook a large amount of food. When I’ve had my meal, I then decant what is left into sealable boxes and freeze the rest. Over time, this builds up a selection of different meals of individual sized portions in the freezer than can be defrosted and reheated at a later date. If you’re cooking for a family you also have the opportunity to provide different meals for each member of the family according to their preferences.

The low level of intervention required once the ingredients have been added to the pot is also a big plus which is why I refer to slow cooking as a “fire up and forget” method. With the slow cooker set on low, you can quite easily load it up with hard vegetables like potatoes, turnip or carrots and let it work its magic over a few hours to cook them to perfection. The meat also comes out as both juicy and tender.

Preparedness - Slow Cooker
Photo by Dmitriy Zub on Unsplash

If you’re out in the field, with a Dutch Oven, the cooking effect will depend on where you apply the heat to the cast iron. Putting charcoal or burning pieces of wood on the lid will provide an all round heat source when done in conjunction with the heat from the fire below, ideal for roasting. It also allows you to cook using wood as a heat source, ideal if you are able to collect fallen branches for free.

The batching principle still applies. If you can cook fresh food in batches instead ordering takeaways, you get the economies of scale and a lot more food for your money.

Regardless of the method of cooking, the general rule is cook for yourself. Be adventurous, have fun cooking. You’ll save a fortune doing it yourself instead of ordering takeaways.

Once again, I’m not saying never have a takeaway, just be aware of the cost difference and have them as treats instead of the norm.

Also storing dehydrated and tinned goods will allow you to build up a store of a range of foodstuffs. You don’t need to go crazy. Just add an extra tin or packet to your shopping basket when you do your shopping and putting somewhere separate from the foods you use every day. Essentially this little act of preparedness is building up an emergency food store. This could be something as common as covering the downtime between changing jobs, or being short one month because an unexpected bill has hit you.

Shelter

This is something most of us take for granted. However, there are thousands of people who live on the streets with no formal shelter available to them at all.

So if you’re one of the majority who does have a home, how can you save money and make your resources go further. The first thing that springs to mind is to look at how you heat your home. Simply turning off your central heating system and keeping it off is a bad idea. This sets the conditions ripe for the production of mould and mildew that can cause all manner of problems. As the warm air we exhale hits cold surfaces, condensation can form as cold air retains less moisture than its warm counterpart.

If you have the money, a dehumidifier is a relatively cheap way of removing moisture from the air. With small portable units available, you can move it to whatever room you are using to prevent a build-up of moisture.

Clothing

Extra clothing layers will keep you warm without the need to crank up the central heating. Multiple thin layers are better at retaining heat than a single thick layer.

Also, don’t be too proud to buy second-hand clothing. Utility over fashion is the name of the game. Remember you’re looking for warm clothing, not something you’d see on a catwalk in Milan.

Transportation

Is that journey necessary? OK, without sounding like an environmental evangelist, if you can walk or go by bike, you’ll save the fuel costs.

If you live in a suitable area (read urban or city environment), consider getting a second-hand moped or scooter. You can cut your petrol consumption right down by using two-wheels instead of four.

You may even find that an electric mobility scooter may provide a cheaper option for shorter journeys.

Getting the basics sorted

It doesn’t take a lot to get the basic principles of preparedness in place. Above all, it is a change of mindset, a different way of thinking.

If you just want to dip your toe into the world of preparedness, trying turning your TV off for a week or a month. You will find you have a lot of time on your hands suddenly. This will allow you to sit back and look at your lifestyle, draft you preparedness plans that suit you and your family and then start to make changes.

Of course you will find your use of notepads, pens and pencils will shoot up, :-) but remember, you can’t do everything at once. Take little steps, but keep on taking them. They will soon mount up.


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