How to Get Started with Prepping

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

With all the recent disasters – wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and now the coronavirus spread, I am seeing more people becoming concerned about preparing.  Within the last month or so, I have been seeing more visits resulting from readers looking for information on prepping or becoming more self sufficient while living in an apartment. One of the most frequently asked questions is how does someone get started.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the absolute best way, but I can speak to what I did myself.


The first thing to do would be to first find out where you’re starting from. It would not make any sense to jump into something without first determining where you are and what you have.

  • Do you have any water or food in your pantry? I have seen households where they only have a bottle of orange juice in their refrigerator and nothing else. How many days of food and water can your family count on, based on what you have in your pantry?  One day?  Two days? Don’t feel bad if you don’t have much.  If you know what you have, you have a place to start.
  • Do you have a first aid kit? Check it out and see if anything is expired.
  • If you were to lose power tonight, do you have emergency lighting such as flashlights?
  • Take a day or two to consider your most used items and foods. From the minute you get up, make note of every item your family uses – toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, coffee, cereal, etc.  Do you have enough for a few weeks? How much of this item do you have stored?  Make a list of foods your family normally eats.

Is your partner involved?

  • Have you discussed this idea with your spouse or partner?  Are they “on-board” with the idea?  Ideally, both partners would be supportive of the plan.  If not, there is some honest discussion to be done.
  • Here are some ideas if your partner feels you are just being paranoid.



Water is your first priority

Because a person can survive for only three days without water, let’s  focus on water first. The old rule of thumb is “Store one gallon per person per day.”  This seems might seem like a lot but you need water for drinking, food preparation and for washing as well. 

The fastest way to build your water supply is to pick up just a few gallons of bottled water when you do your weekly grocery shopping.  Also, save and thoroughly clean 2-liter soda bottles and juice bottles. Fill them with tap water.  Store your bottled water away from heat and light. If you lack space, purchase stackable water containers.


An easy way to start your food storage is by buying a few cans of food during each weekly visit the supermarket. You can easily start this with a $5 or 10 budget a week. Each week, buy items to add to your food storage.

Buy only foods your family will eat. There is no point buying tuna if your family would not touch it, even if the cans are on sale. They will just go to waste. Buy cans with the farthest expiration dates, as well as shelf-stable items such as rice, beans, pasta, oatmeal, salt, sugar, ramen noodles, canned soups, canned meats and other canned entrees, powdered or canned milk, etc.  If you need your caffeine in the morning then buy coffee or tea as well.

Don’t forget to have a can opener handy. You may also add paper plates, cups, utensils – you may need them if water is scarce immediately following a disaster. You’ll need trash bags as well.


Think about all the items you use in your daily routine and buy a few at a time such as:

  • Toilet paper
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner (not essential but nice to have)
  • Soaps
  • Toothpaste and/or Baking Soda
  • Razors
  • Nail/toenail clippers, tweezers
  • Deodorant
  • Lotions
  • Tampons/Sanitary Napkins
  • Alcohol
  • Mouthwash
  • Cotton balls and Q-tips

First aid

Get a comprehensive first aid kit such as this one.

Or assemble your own with these money saving tips.

Power outage supplies

Stock up on extra batteries, flashlights, lamps and backup light sources.

You will need a battery operated or hand crank radio to keep up with news and weather reports.

Have a backup method of cooking such as a propane stove. Set it up in a well-ventilated area such as your covered balcony or patio.

Most apartments do not allow generators, but if you live in your own home, consider a generator.

If you live in a cold area, you will need to have backup heating methods such as firewood for your fireplace or wood burning stove, heating oil etc.   Never turn on the gas stove to heat your home. You must also have a carbon monoxide detectors (with fresh batteries) in your home.

Check on your supply of extra blankets, comforters and cold weather clothing.

With no TV, computers or video games, you will need some form of entertainment such as board games, books etc.

Make sure you cell phone is charged at all times, or if you have a land line, have a non- electrical phone at home. A portable cell phone charger is also essential so you can charge your phone during a power outage.


A lot of people no longer use cash and rely on debit or credit cards for all purchases. Although using cards is so much more convenient consider having a set amount of cash on hand to help you get out of a bind. In an emergency or disaster, debit and credit card machines may not work if there is no electricity. Build a cash emergency fund as soon as possible. You can start with just $20 hidden away.

Hopefully, these ideas have gotten you started with your emergency preparedness goals.


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  1. Great starting point! So many people tell me that they don’t have time to start “prepping” or that it is too much work. You laid it out nicely, you can start with expanding your grocery list to include a few extra items each time you go to the store (while staying on budget) and start to grow your stock of crucial supplies.

    Most people usually have what they need in case of a power outage but making sure it is all in one place that is easy to find in the dark, and making sure batteries are not corroded is the issue. Get it organized and check on it every few months!

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