Many people are now waking up to the possibility that the future may not provide the great recovery we all expect it to be. They are beginning to sense that something is wrong with the economy and it will not get better. Their first thought is the question, What do I do to protect myself and my family? They usually answer that question with the thought, maybe these preppers aren’t so crazy after all.
How do you prep with very little money? Many people
These questions are just a start but they will determine what you will need to get by in a difficult situation. An apartment dweller will have no need to get seeds and garden tools immediately while it might make perfect sense to someone in the country with a few acres of their own land. If you live in the suburbs and have a small yard you might be able to plant some fruit trees but what happens if you lose your home to foreclosure? Would the money for those trees have been spent better somewhere else? You need to decide what your emergency will involve and what your basic needs will be because of it. Let’s look at an apartment dweller for a minute.
They depend on water from the city, food from the grocery store, power for heat, light and cooking and sanitation, all of which has to be brought into the city or pumped out of the city on a continuous basis. If all of these systems shut down for any length of time you are now stranded in a cave on a cliff with a long staircase to traverse each way. Assuming that everyone is in the same situation as you and you are not evicted from your home, what supplies will you need to shelter in place and how long will they last? Being in an apartment you are limited to the types of supplies you may be able to store. For instance, it would be a waste of money to invest in a generator if you know you can’t store a 30 day supply of gas.
The two primary supplies you need no matter where you live, are water and food. In a system-wide failure, water would be the first thing you would run out of. You can only live about three days without water so it is a critical storage item. The only problem with water is that it’s heavy and takes up a lot of room if you want several months supplies. For someone in an apartment this is out of the question so how do you get around this? The solution has to be to store a small supply and have a plan to resupply what you need. The cheapest way to go is to get a supply of five-gallon plastic food grade buckets to store water in. As a secondary storage device get a few thirty-gallon trash cans and some food-grade liners for them. These can be filled just prior to an emergency if you have any warning. Another secondary storage medium would be your bathtub. This can hold fifty gallons or more to last you quite a while. In addition to storage containers, you need to get a good water filter.
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A gravity-fed system is good but a portable reverse osmosis system is better. You may need to forage for water during a long emergency and you don’t want to contaminate your clean buckets with unfiltered water that you will have to carry home. Also, you will need to filter water in your tub or other containers that may not be completely clean. The reason to have some five-gallon buckets is that you may need to carry water up to your apartment and more than five gallons is more than most people would be able to handle at one time. The next thing you need to have on hand is a supply of food. The cheapest things to start off with that will keep you fed are the following items. You might want to get 3lbs of rice, 3lbs of dried beans, 5lbs of cornmeal, 42oz of oatmeal, 2lbs of powdered milk, 26oz of mash potato flakes, 30 packages of ramen noodles and 12 cans of vegetables.
All of these things will cost you about $35-50 and provide one person with three meals a day for 30 days. This list is meant to prevent desperation on your part for the least amount of money not necessarily a perfectly balanced menu. A good multivitamin can fill in any shortfalls of this menu. This shortlist provides you with a reasonable amount of food for a very small investment and all of it will fit in two five-gallon containers to allow for easy transport if you decide to relocate with it. Another item you might want to get depending on your location is a good quality cold weather sleeping bag. This is a must if you are living in a cold climate without a dependable heat source. You can survive in a very cold place for a very long time if you have the means to stay warm and get a good nights sleep. The next item you should have is a propane stove, at least a single burner unit, and at least a one-pound canister of propane for each week for the duration you plan for.
This will allow you the means to heat water and cook food and also provide heat on a limited basis. To make your fuel go as far as possible you also want to have a small pressure cooker so you can cook things like beans and rice quickly. For light, you can have a 100-hour liquid paraffin candle that will provide you with 3 hours of light every night for a month. You want to have a large box of strike-anywhere matches and a disposable lighter to light your stove and candle. A hand-crank LED light with a radio and cell phone charging port would be a good addition to this kit. The final thing you would need is a sanitation system. With the power off, you might be able to flush your toilet with your water stores but the pumps that carry the sewage away will not be working so the sewer lines will eventually back up. To avoid this you need to have a portable toilet with disposable linings that you can utilize until the power returns or you relocate. A simple portable toilet and a few liners can be had for under twenty dollars. You can also get disposable liners that fit the regular toilet bowl that you can use.
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Depending on how much you spend on your sleeping bag and pressure cooker, you can get everything listed here for around three hundred dollars. For that price, you would be able to shelter in place for a month. If you increase the amount of food, propane, and candles you get, you could shelter in place for months. Security is not covered here because it is something that could fill an article of its own. These are the basic things you should have for an apartment if you plan to stay in place for any length of time. These limited supplies can be the difference between remaining safe and healthy and becoming desperate. The small number of supplies listed here would be easy to relocate with even if you had to travel on foot. Now let’s talk about expanded preps for apartments and things for single-family homes.
Previously we talked about basic critical preps for apartments. Once these basic elements are secured, you will want to expand your supplies to increase your capabilities. Your expanded supplies will be dictated by three things. They will be based on your individual situation, your personal preferences, and your financial capability. The potential list of suppliers based on these things is infinite so we won’t try to list all of the conventional items but instead let’s look at some unconventional things.
In the area of sanitation and hygiene, it will be important to keep clean. Your cleanliness will be a contributing factor to your overall health. Women have their own special needs so they should plan for this accordingly. Overall you should have a way to shower at least once a week and clean yourself a few times in between. This can be as simple as having a supply of baby wipes and a solar shower to use. With the solar shower just keep in mind that you will need a way to hang it up high that can support 50 or so pounds. One solution to this might be to use a step ladder that supports your shower when you need it and the rest of the time its’ steps can be used to hold small planters such as for sprouts.
As for sanitation, you will need to have a good supply of toilet paper but even so, you need to plan on the day when you will run out, then what do you do? The yellow pages may help for a while but even that is a limited resource. You may need to have some type of cloth that you can reuse and a way to clean it so you need to figure that out now. One solution may be to keep a small supply of cloth baby diapers which are made for this similar purpose. If you have the resources to maintain cloth diapers then you should be covered.
I have just one final note on sanitation. Your water supply may be limited so you want to make the most from what you have. After you shower you might want to save this greywater for watering your plants. Cut the top off of a milk jug or large plastic bottle, fill it two thirds with sand and punch a few small holes in the bottom, wrap a tightly woven piece of cloth around the bottom and pour your grey water through it catching this filtered water in a container. This should remove most of the soap scum. It would also help if you were to use organic or biocompatible soap with chemicals that your plants can use.
On the subject of water, you will be dependent on whatever local sources you have over the long term. This may be a puddle, pond or river. There are two main problems I see with foraging for water in an emergency situation. Most people will not have the filtering and storage capability that you do and going out in public will advertise this fact. The other thing is, the first problem may lead to you becoming a target of those unprepared and wishing to upgrade their position. Moving around too much in public could be very dangerous.
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The conventional approach to food is to store canned and dehydrated goods but this could run out at some point. One way to ensure sustained access to food is to grow some of your own. This is difficult in the confined space of an apartment but is possible. If you have a balcony you will have room for more planters but almost all apartments have at least one large window that you can use. You need to grow the most food in the least amount of space so certain plants with high yield will become obvious. Things such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peppers that can be grown vertically work well and have a small footprint. Other plants such as carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, and lettuce are compact and can be grown in small containers and provide a good yield.
Here is something that most people don’t consider. With a potato tower, you can produce up to 100 lbs of potatoes in a container with a footprint of 4 square feet. The plans for this can be found on the net so I won’t go into a lot of details on it. Most people plant a summer garden but don’t think about a winter garden. You may grow some plants in your apartment during the winter but will they live if you have no heat. Things like cabbage, turnips, Brussel sprouts, spinach, and collards can survive a lot of cold weather and even if you have no heat these things will live and provide you with fresh produce throughout the winter. Two potato towers and a few planters can provide you with a great deal of life-sustaining food. In the winter your potato towers can be laid on their side and used as planters for large things like cabbage and collards providing you a good dual use for them.
Here is another plan for providing food throughout the year. If you are allowed to keep pets such as birds then why not keep chickens. You can keep four Rhode Island Red pullets in a cage and be provided with about 2 dozen eggs every week. They will need at least 4 square feet per bird or more if possible. A multilevel cage would work well. For 4 birds you would need 4 bags of lay ration and 1 bag of cracked corn. This 250 lbs of feed would keep your birds fed for about a year.
For about $75-$80 worth of feed, you would get about 100 dozen eggs, not a bad deal. The eggshells can be fed back to the chickens for extra calcium and any trimmings from your garden would make them very happy birds. The only other thing you would need to stock is a bag of granite grit to feed them to help with digestion. Another good thing to keep in mind is that chicken manure is some of the best fertilizer you can get. Chickens are also very cold hardy as long as you keep them out of the wind so a cold apartment would not bother them.
You could almost survive with nothing more than two potato towers and four chickens. This would provide you with three eggs and over half a pound of potatoes a day. While not ideal it would go a long way towards the prevention of starvation and desperation. One last word on apartments, other than security issues regarding two-legged critters, the main threats you face are the destruction of the building and fire, which may be one and the same. If an earthquake or similar destructive force takes down the building there is not much you can do except make your peace with God and try to get out. With a fire, you may have enough time to gather your critical supplies and evacuate. You need to plan on a hasty evacuation and have a list of must-take supplies. These will allow you to set up another home and continue caring for yourself. In this instance, one special item you might need is a respirator or protective mask to filter out the smoke so that you can make it to the lower levels and escape. This is a very real threat in the city during a grid down situation because water and firefighters may not be available to assist you.
Planning for long term self-sufficiency in an area that is not designed for it can be daunting but it can be done if you take the time to think everything through carefully while you have the time. The greatest asset you have is your mind so fill it with all that you can to make the best use of available resources. In the next article, we’ll look at single-family homes and some things that are unique to that situation.
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