As with everything in life the first couple of steps are the most difficult ones, there is an overabundance of information when it comes to prepping and survivalism and a lot of beginner preppers are simply overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information. If you have been looking for information on prepping websites then you have been bombarded with “must-have” items, the truth is that the vast majority of them are useless.
You can start prepping by starting out small, making a survival garden, learning to can, making a rotating food pantry, storing water, managing your money, generating power, having alternative heating sources, having a waste disposal system, having a bug out plan, making a bug out bag, and by following OPSEC. Your main goal as a beginner prepper is to be self-reliant in terms of food, water, and electricity.
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What a lot of people tend to forget is that that prepping is a way of life, and there are different types of peppers who prepare for different scenarios. In the prepping community, you will often hear the word SHTF which stands for “shit hits the fan”. Although not all SHTF events are equal, and as a prepper, you can not prepare for every type of SHTF scenario. On the other hand, there are a lot of people living a prepper lifestyle, and they do not even know it.
In remote areas most people are preppers, they know that they have to be as self-reliant as possible, especially during an emergency situation. The main idea of prepping is to be self-reliant, both during the good and during the hard times as well. Although a lot of people simply will hoard as much stuff as they can and for the most part they will never use their stockpiles and prepping items.
Most people live on a budget, and as a prepper, you should make prepping cost you less money in the long run, rather than being a massive investment for which you might never see a return. There is a fine line between hoarding and prepping, and your goal is to actually use the items, rather than store them indefinitely and hoping that one day you might use them. As a general rule most preppers follow the survival rule of 3, for more information check out my recent article Survival rule of 3 ( Step by Step Guide ).
If you are new to prepping then you have to start out small. There are way too many people who go into debt for buying expensive items which they will most likely never use. There are a lot of fancy equipment specially made for preppers, from tactical flashlights to tactical toilet paper. As a beginner prepper, these are not a priority for you, your main priorities will be money, food, water, and electricity.
Just because some preppers have their entire home filled with food and survival gear that doesn’t mean that they have bought all of them at once. You have your entire life to be a prepper, and the safest way to start prepping is starting out small. Remember that prepping is about being self-sufficient, and not hoarding as much stuff as you can.
Make a survival garden
A small garden can go a long way and as a prepper, you should think of making a small survival garden. If you live in a house than making a survival garden will be fairly easy, just pick a corner of your garden and start planting. Just keep in mind to start small, see what grows well in your area, and scale it up from there. Do not get your expectations high for the first year, but in a couple of years, a survival garden might be able to feed your entire family.
This way you are prepping and saving money as well, which in my opinion should be the goal of every prepper. If you live in a city than your best option is to buy a small plot of land outside the city, and grow crops there. On the other hand, you can also grow crops in pots, although this is not ideal but it is better than nothing. If you want to know what are the easiest crops to grow then check out my recent article Easiest crops to grow ( Top 20 ).
Learn to can
As a prepper, it is not only enough to have a reliable source of food, like you would with a survival garden. You will have to know how to store your food for a long time as possible. The best part about canning is that you can preserve vegetables, fruits, meats, and virtually almost any kind of food. The prepping industry is massive and you have probably seen a lot of companies selling MRE’s, these are meals ready to eat.
MRE’s tend to be fairly expensive and for the most part, their taste is awful. If you want to be able to rely on your own supply of food for the long run then you should learn how to can things. The best part about canning is that you will spend a lot less money on groceries, and canned foods tend to have a fairly long shelf life. Even if you do not have your own garden, you can still buy vegetables from the farmers market and can them.
Make a rotating food pantry
As a prepper, you will need a dedicated space where you store your food, and your best option is to use a rotating food pantry. A rotating food pantry is a pantry where you simply rotate the stored items, this way the old ones are always in front and the freshest ones are in the back. This way you will waste no food, and you will always resupply with fresh food from time to time. The best part about a rotating food pantry is that you always know what you have and you can plan ahead.
If you have canned a lot of tomatoes this year, then next year instead of growing tomatoes you could grow beans. This way you have a lot of different vegetables, fruits, and meats both for emergency situations and for everyday use. Some preppers will fill their pantry with food items which they will never use, this is a waste of money. With a rotating food pantry, you will spend a lot less money, and you will actually use the items which you store.
In an SHTF situation, you can easily rely on your food pantry, and in a couple of years, your food pantry will be so full that you will be able to feed yourself just from your food pantry. Just keep in mind to always place the fresh items in the back, and bring the oldest items in the front, this way you actually increase the shelf life of your entire pantry.
Now that you have a reliable source of food, you have to think of how you will get water. There are a lot of people living on the edge of not having any water at all, and for the most part, they do not even know it. Some preppers will stockpile as much water as they can, although this is a good idea for the most part but sooner or later you have to get fresh water. The problem with storing water is that you never know how much you should store.
People who have a water storage tank usually will have plenty of water for an entire year, although this depends on the size of the family. Setting up a water storage tank is not viable for everybody, and some people store water in their garage or basement in plastic bottles, on the long run this is a bad idea as you will be drinking a lot of plastic for more information check out my recent article How long can you store bottled water? ( In your Home, Garage or Car ).
Instead, you should think about what are your options when it comes to a reliable water source and set up a water collection system. These sources can be anything from, melted snow, streams, rivers, to rainwater. For the most part, the easiest source of freshwater will be rain, so you should set up a rainwater collection system. Just keep in mind that in some states it is illegal to harvest rainwater, or you will need a special permit to be able to do it.
You should figure out a place where you can store the rainwater, and keep in mind that even if it is rainwater you should still filter and purify the water. There are some UV systems that are many for cleaning water, and these do work extremely well.
For some reason, not a lot of prepper websites talk about money or money management. As a prepper, you should always have some cash at hand, in worst-case scenarios where the power goes out you will not be able to use your credit or debit card for who knows how long. There are a lot of rich people who do not use cash at all, and if the power goes out for extended periods of time, they will start selling their stuff for cheap.
No matter what you do, do not go into debt for prepping. As I have mentioned before prepping is all about self-reliance, and if you spend over your budget you are not self-reliant. Most people tend to live from one paycheck to another, always crying that they do not earn enough money to survive, yet when you look at their phone they have the latest Apple phone, the latest styles of shoes, and so on.
As a prepper you should try to live as frugally as possible, small expenses over long periods of time will end up in a big sum of money. Most importantly as a prepper, you should get out of debt as soon as possible. Most people think that in a massive SHTF like an economic collapse that the banks will go bankrupt and they do not have to pay off their debt. This is false, debt is sold and bought by different companies, and as soon as they have the possibility they will try to recover as much money as possible.
During a recession, these companies make a lot of money, and a lot of people end up losing their homes due to a couple of thousands of dollars of debt. Remember that in a recession the value of your house will go down, and if the debt collectors sell your house to recover your debt then you will end up losing a lot of money. If you have a mortgage then you should try and pay it off as soon as possible, now I am not saying that all of your hard-earned money should go for paying off the debt.
Paying an extra $20-$30 per month is a good start, which will be around $360 per year. Now you might think that this is not a lot of money, but if you are broke, $100 is a lot of money. For more information on how to prepare for an economic collapse check out my recent article How to prepare for economic collapse ( In 22 Steps ).
Now that you have food and water it is time to think about how you will generate electricity. For the short term, you can use a power generator, although for a prolonged power outage situation this will not be viable for most people, as it will cost you a lot of money. As a beginner prepper, your main goal should be to at least have enough electricity to power your communication devices, such as phones, radios, and so on.
Ideally, you should set up solar panels that will be able to power most of your home. The problem is that such a system will cost you a lot of money. The good news is that local governments do have incentives and rebates for solar power system setups, so you should ask around in your area. Start out small, just get a couple of solar panels which will be enough to power your phone, remember your short term goal is to have the ability to communicate and not to power your entire house.
Once you have at least a basic solar generator to power your phone it is time to think about expanding your setup so you can power your entire home. Another good opinion for generating power is to use wind power generators, although this depends on the area where you live, some places are better for generating power with solar panels while others are better for wind power. Setting up a wind power generator tends to be expensive, so you should split the cost with some of your neighbors, as these wind power generators will have no problem powering several homes.
Alternative heating sources
One thing which a lot of people tend to forget is how they will heat their homes during the wintertime. Most people will heat their homes with gas or with electricity, and if the power goes out than they do not have a plan B. In some areas of the country, the winters can be fairly cold, and even a couple of days without power would do significant damage to your property. This is especially problematic if you live in a remote area. I have already written an in-depth article about alternative heating sources, so check it out ( Top 15 ) Best alternative heat sources during power outage.
Waste disposal system
Now that you have food, water, and a reliable way of generating power you have to think about how you will dispose of your waste. Waste disposal is big business, and you will have to dish out a lot of money for a good waste disposal system. If you are living in the middle of nowhere than you probably have a septic tank, although in case of a major SHTF you will not be able to clean it. You can use your kitchen scraps to make compost and you should start thinking of how to reuse plastic items.
If you are connected to the local sewage then even in an SHTF situation these will most likely work for a period of time. You only need water to flush down your toilet, so in theory, toilets should work for a long time. No matter the SHTF situation you shouldn’t worry about toilet paper too much as there are plenty of alternatives, for more information check out my recent article No toilet paper? ( Top 21 Alternatives ).
Have a bug-out plan
As a prepper, you should always have a backup plan, as in certain emergency situations you will have to leave your home. It is a good idea to have a bug-out plan as during an SHTF situation things tend to move fairly fast. Come up with a bug-out plan which includes a meet-up location, this way if some of the members of your family get separated know where they can meet up with you. Just make sure that every member of your family knows this location.
From the meeting point, you can head to your blog out location, where you could stay safe until the SHTF scenario blows over.
Make a bug out bag
Most preppers have at least one bug out bag. A bug-out bag is a bag that has several survival items, such as food, water, tools, signaling devices, and so on. Some preppers make their own bug out bags while others use pre-made bug out bags. For the most part, any heavy-duty bag will do, as long as you know what to pack in it you are set to go. Ideally, every member of your family should have a bug out bag, this way you can carry more stuff.
The role of the bug out bag is to have everything you need for the journey to your bug out location, and not to live off your bug out bag, so pack accordingly. For the most part, if you are a beginner then you should get a pre-made bug-out bag, as these tend to cost less then a bug-out bag which you would create. If you want to know which are the best premade bug out bags then check out my recent article Best premade bug out bag ( Top 21 ).
OPSEC is operational security, which means that you keep your prepping to yourself, and you should do this for your family’s safety. During a crisis situation, people will do questionable things especially once they panic. Remember when people panicked over toilet paper, if you thought that was bad than what would have happened if some of your neighbors would think that you have a lot of toilet paper.
Freaking out over toilet paper is one thing, but the panic created due to a food shortage will be exponentially more dangerous. if your neighbors know that you are a prepper and that you have plenty of food, then they will come knocking on your door, which is the last thing you want as sooner or later some will think of grabbing all your stuff. As a general rule follow OPSEC, and if things get tough in your area just blend in and do not give anybody a reason to come to your door to ask for food or anything else.
As you can see starting prepping is not that difficult, although a lot of people will spend a lot of money, you can definitely do it on the cheap. If you are a beginner prepper then do not start hoarding stuff just for the sake of it, instead focus on becoming self-reliant over everything else. This way you will spend a lot less money and in case of an emergency situation, you will have everything that you need.