For more than a decade I have been writing books and articles, teaching classes and presenting workshops on preparing your family for emergencies. I focused primarily on short-term events like fires, floods, hurricanes and winter storms because those were the most likely scenarios. In January, things changed. News reports began to filter in about a novel coronavirus, one with pandemic potential, Early in February, I sent out an email blast to family and friends suggesting it was time to take preparing seriously and get ready for long-term disruptions to supply chains and public services. Some people listened to me. Most didn’t. So here we are. While things are looking more hopeful in some parts of the country, it is clear that this virus is going to be impacting our lives for the foreseeable future. This begs an important question. Is it too late to prepare? To that I say an emphatic no! But where to begin? What are the critical areas to address that can help your family face the winter more comfortably and with less anxiety?
You can, perhaps, make multiple trips to your local market or big box store and lay in supplies and that isn’t a terrible strategy. It does, however, come with some downsides, space and finances being two of the big ones. Take laundry detergent. It was in very short supply for months. Now I could anticipate that it might again be hard to get. Instead of purchasing twelve large jugs of detergent, something that stores well but takes up a great deal of room and is very heavy to boot, I stocked up on the ingredients to make my own. I have twelve bars of Fels Naptha and 6 boxes each of Washing Soda and Borax. Now, for far less money, have the supplies to make my own detergent for several years and it all fits in a smallish tote.
Bread shelves were empty around here for several months. Yeast, flour, even bread pans were even harder to find. I suppose, if you had freezer space, you get multiple loaves on sale but how much easier to buy flour in bulk, yeast in one pound bricks and hone your bread baking skills. White flour can be stored for a very long time in mylar bags and plastic buckets or even in ½ gallon Mason jars. Then you can have fresh bread whenever you need it.
It’s harvest time. I just scored two huge boxes of tomatoes at the farmer’s market because they were about to go bad and the seller didn’t want to toss them out. It was the work of a pleasant day to turn those tomatoes into 14 jars of sauce, shelf stable and waiting to be turned into dinner.
Today, I’m making stuffed peppers, and peppers are in season and funny looking ones are to be had for next to nothing. I’ll freeze them and have ready to heat and eat meals, just in case.
This afternoon, my husband and I are making lists for each other. If I should get sick, Bruce needs to know how to log into my daughter’s on-line learning platform and what the farm share pick-up schedule looks like. I need a list of chores he tackles to button up the house for winter. We are also getting contact information for the family of an elderly neighbor we look after.
Anyone who has been following me for a while knows that I am not a bunker and bullet kind of prepper. I’m all about community and taking care of each other. Does your community have a mutual aid group or a CERT team? If they don’t, can you start one? We may well be in for a long, hard winter. It will be easier to manage if we are holding hands and dealing with whatever comes together.
Kathy Harrison and her husband own a small hobby farm, where they raise bees, chickens, and pigs and grow organic vegetables. Kathy has also written two books on family preparedness for Storey Publishing, Just In Case: How To Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens and Prepping 101: 40 Steps You Can Take To Be Prepared.