full of lists detailing what the prepper ought to stockpile in order to survive and even thrive in a SHTF scenario. However, most of them fundamentally misrepresent the nature of SHTF and can cause you to waste precious money (and more importantly, limited space) stockpiling items that you don’t really need.
One example is toilet paper, which finds a lofty position on many lists, both as a stock item and a trade item. There is quite possibly not a worse item to stock in terms of storage space consumed. No one wants to live without toilet paper, but then again no one wants to live without electricity, internet, Wal Mart, or Wrestlemania, either. That's not really going to be a choice we'll make as individuals.
Stocking toilet paper gives the impression that things can go on as they always have – a mindset the prepper has to consciously shuck. It will run out at some point and then you’ll have to switch to a backup plan. Best to devise and implement a backup plan early – whether square-cut rags or Sears catalogs – and save a closet full of space today. Yes, stock a little toilet paper, a few boxes of tampons, some batteries. But realize these are transition items, not survival items.
The same can be said for long-term storage food. It is simply not enough to buy a collection of #10 cans full of freeze-dried green beans and call it a day. Not because they won’t last, but because you can’t eat it. “Of course I can,” you say. Then why aren’t you eating them now? There are many reasons, but two of them are that they taste like crap and that they stop you up. Guess what? In an SHTF scenario they are still going to taste like that and they are still going to constipate you, except then your body will be stressed so you’ll probably get sick as well. So if you’re not going to work them into your diet today – which you should if you have them, but probably won’t – then don’t rely on them for the future. Like TP, stored food is a transition item.
Instead of perishables and items that will be quickly consumed, the areas where the prepper ought to concentrate are simple: tools and skills. The former because an SHTF scenario is one in which tools will be unavailable via trade for some time, the latter because life is going to change, so best to get a jump on things.
So with all that intro, let's begin the big list of items for your SHTF stockpile:
1. Food preparation tools. These are the cheapest and most plentiful (today) of all the tools you'll need. Used can openers, spatulas, and cutlery are available for almost nothing at garage sales and estate auctions. Think about what items you use in food preparation, and most importantly, which ones break. Also ponder how many you can store in the space demanded by one case of toilet paper. Don't forget a few nut crackers and maybe a cleaver as well. Choose metal over plastic and cast iron over teflon-coated aluminum. Your mindset should be, whenever possible, to buy tools that will outlive you.
2. Food storage tools. Rather than storing a bunch of canned goods, accumulate tools that will allow you to can those goods yourself. These include pressure canners and canning jars in various sizes, rings and lids, and even dried canning mixes (pickling spices, salsa mix). Then practice with them. Instead of throwing away the turkey remains, turn them into turkey soup and can it like your grandmother did. Make jellies and chutneys where possible. Not only will you eat better, you can reduce your food costs significantly by buying when items are cheap and preserving them yourself. A dehydrator, grain mill, and meat grinder will also prove invaluable. Again, use your tools - it's the only way you will become competent and comfortable with them.
3. Food production tools. Plant a small garden, even if it's in your kitchen window. Plant some herbs, plant some perennials, plant some berry bushes and tomatoes and maybe some peppers along the side of your house. The point of planting a garden at first is not for food - that's just a side benefit while cantaloupe is still being flown in from Chile every day. The objective is to learn how to plant one, to learn what tools you'll need, to discover what you like and what works for you. Whether SHTF comes in the form of peak cheap oil or an EMP, a financial collapse or a pandemic, the future is going to demand much more human labor in the production of food, and it will be produced much closer to where it is consumed. Learn to do it while mistakes are cost-free. Then stockpile extras of whatever tools you use.
In Part II we’ll take a look at gold and guns, with related tool and skill preps.